As It Is on Earth by Peter M. Wheelwright

After a divorce, young history professor Taylor Thatcher begins to take a deeper interest in his rich family history of Maine Puritans, arriving in New England on Mayflower and settling on farm land for generations. Traversing the landscape of his past, Taylor prepares for his birthday, which he shares with his younger half-brother, Bingham, and which happens to fall on Columbus Day of 1999. At this family reunion, he must confront both his past and those who covered up family secrets, while simultaneously dealing with the confusion of a growing attraction to a student, Miryam.

When conjuring up an image of a history professor, most people’s conceptions take the shape of a dusty old man dictating history dryly to his bored class, but Taylor Thatcher—and certainly the author as well—has an emotional tie to the past. Rather than simply finding the facts, dates, and stories fascinating, he has an introspective relationship with history, connecting with the people and the personal challenges they faced regarding family, science, and religion. Digging deep into the root of the human individuality in the context of culture by exploring Native American and ancient Mexican anthropology, as well as the pilgrims who settled on the East Coast, Wheelwright weaves a cultural tapestry of an individual’s relationship with nature. The family aspect—though Taylor’s family has an unusual genetic dynamic, his father marrying his late wife’s twin sister to conceive his younger brother—illuminates the human capacity for forgiveness and respect for one’s heritage.

With artistry, the language of As It Is on Earth is rich and intimate, though short, clipped sentences—which are meant to mirror Taylor’s introspective voice but occasionally border on pretentiousness—often slow the story down, the slowness allows the reader to savor the text rather than get bored of it. The characters are splendidly drawn, Taylor’s thoughtfulness and sensitivity deep; much of the story necessarily takes place in Taylor’s memory, leaving the reader wanting further nourishment concerning his relationships with his family in the “present day” of the narrative.

The natural setting and luxurious history are beautifully crafted, the territory of the novel arguably the strongest aspect. Atmospheres of an archaeological trip to the Yucatan, a childhood spent on a farm in New England, and even a professor’s office setting give this book a heart bent on rediscovery and not a simple knowledge of the past so much as an understanding of it and its effects on the present human condition.

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing! This sounds amazing :D
    I am from Maine, originally~

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  2. Good review. You are a talented reviewer, Aimme.

    I have a wish, btw. You don't need to do this, of course, if you don't want to, but I sometimes miss your posts because I forget to check you blog. Have you thought of adding a "subscribe by e-mail link? Then I'd always know when you post. :) Just a thought.

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    Replies
    1. Hm, I'll try to figure out how to do that. :)

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    2. It's really easy - it's just a gadget in blogger. Usually it's on the first page of gadgets now.

      If you want to do it, and blogger has you stymied, feel free to e-mail me. :)

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