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Percival's Planetby Michael Byers
Synopses & Reviews
A novel of ambition and obsession centered on the race to discover Pluto in 1930, pitting an untrained Kansas farm boy against the greatest minds of Harvard at the run-down Lowell Observatory in Arizona
In 1928, the boy who will discover Pluto, Clyde Tombaugh, is on the family farm, grinding a lens for his own telescope under the immense Kansas sky. In Flagstaff, Arizona, the staff of Lowell Observatory is about to resume the late Percival Lowell's interrupted search for Planet X. Meanwhile, the immensely rich heir to a chemical fortune has decided to go west to hunt for dinosaurs and in Cambridge, Massachussetts, the most beautiful girl in America is going slowly insane while her ex-heavyweight champion boyfriend stands by helplessly, desperate to do anything to keep her. Inspired by the true story of Tombaugh and set in the last gin-soaked months of the flapper era, Percival's Planet tells the story of the intertwining lives of half a dozen dreamers, schemers, and madmen. Following Tombaugh's unlikely path from son of a farmer to discoverer of a planet, the novel touches on insanity, mathematics, music, astrophysics, boxing, dinosaur hunting, shipwrecks—and what happens when the greatest romance of your life is also the source of your life's greatest sorrow.
"Byers (Long for This World) offers a gloriously expansive view of Depression-era America, from the easy extravagance of the Boston Brahmins to hardscrabble rural life. At its core, this is the story of Clyde Tombaugh, an unassuming Kansas farm kid who achieves international fame for his discovery of Pluto. In addition to Clyde, there is the Harvard crowd that precedes him at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona: Alan Barber, a man of modest background who aspires to the effortless grace of his wealthy colleague, Dick Morrow, and has a crush on Dick's scholarly and daring girlfriend, Florence. Byers connects Clyde's story with a number of riveting and eventually interlinking subplots, among them an archeological dig run by the wealthy Felix DuPrie, who has turned his back on the family business to try his hand at unearthing dinosaur bones, and the touching tale of Edward Howe, a former professional boxer who pines after his gorgeous and troubled secretary, whose delusions are portrayed with an amazing sensitivity and realism. Between the faultless storytelling and the juicy historical hook, it looks like a hit." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Michael Byers is the author of the story collection The Coast of Good Intentions, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the acclaimed novel Long for This World, winner of the First Novel Award from Virginia Commonwealth University. Both were New York Times Notable Books. A former Stegner Fellow and Whiting Award winner, he teaches at the University of Michigan.
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