In the path of falling objects (by Andrew Smith)

28 07 2013

itpofoBooks about road trips usually invoke a great leisurely feeling, but in the case of In the Path of Falling Objects, there’s very little holiday fun to be had. However, what it lacks in overt cheerfulness,  it well makes up for in creepy allure and terrifying pull. This is the 4th Smith novel the cat has read in a short time, and if it weren’t for the absolutely captivating language which seems to be a constant and the clear Smith excellence it exudes, you would think it was written by a different person: such a variety in genres and topics! Clearly Andrew Smith is an author who doesn’t want to get pinned down on one particular thing or genre or topic,… which shows he is not afraid to take risks and is an author who likes to get everything out of his obvious talent. His most recent exploit Winger is one of the best contemporary YA novels, if not the best contemporary YA novel, of 2013. The Marbury Lens and Passenger are creepy sci-fi/horror genre-benders. And here he’s serving up a (historical) road novel? What is this guy not capable of pulling off?

After their mother abandoned them for some guy in Georgia or Texas, and all supplies at their house are used up, Jonah and Simon leave their house in New Mexico to find their father, who’s getting out of prison, in Arizona. After their horse has died (!), the two brothers, who have nothing but each other, get picked up by a couple, Mitch – only a couple of years older than the 16-year-old Jonah – and the beautiful and alluring Lilly. Jonah immediately senses that something strange is going on with Mitch, and doesn’t really want to get into the Lincoln. Simon, on the other hand, no longer wants to be just the little brother, and actually resents the way in which Jonah has been acting like the responsible adult in their relationship, rather than a big brother. This is part of the reason why he feels drawn to Mitch and insists on riding along with these two strangers (and the tin man in the backseat). This is the start of the road trip from hell, because Mitch really turns out to be a total psycho.

And then there’s Lilly, the girl who’s accompanying the disturbing Mitch. Partly desperate, partly survivalist, she has an enormous pull over the two brothers and over Mitch. This intensifies the tense relationship the siblings already had before they met Mitch and Lilly … and not in a good way. She is also a catalyst for some of Mitch’s volatile behavior towards the siblings and total strangers they encounter along the way…  The emotional freefall of all these protagonists is mirrored by the story of Matthew, the oldest brother, who’s missing in Vietnam and whose heart-breaking letters to Jonah we get to read as well.

In the Path of Falling Objects is what I imagine a Shakespearean Western would be like: a tragic story in a dry and dusty setting with tragic main characters and an incredible magnetism that draws you in slowly at first and then all at once.  Every character in this book is falling in his/her own way, but because of its raw realism, the saddest part of this novel was by far the storyline involving Matthew who we only know through his letters.  In the Path of Falling Objects  isn’t perfect – it’s quite heavy on the symbolism, which might put off some readers – but if there’s one thing that is clear, then it is that YA hardly ever gets as intense as with Andrew Smith. Highly recommended!

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3 responses

30 07 2013
felix

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felix http://www.nexopia.com/users/state30parade/blog/1-ideas-on-how-to-face-kidney-impaired-function-before-time-expires

9 08 2013
The things a brother knows (by Dana Reinhardt) | Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] feels like then? Being in a book rut. In the last 10 or so books, there’s only been one real wow book, but not on overwhelming “WTF how did I not know about this thing wow”, more like an expected […]

22 12 2013
The year 2013 in reading | Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] Medicine in October. An absolutely highpoint was Winger in June. But also Passenger, Stick and In the Path of Falling Objects showed me the talent of a true author: fierce and intense, an authentic voice amidst an ocean of […]

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