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The Cloud Atlasby Liam Callanan
Synopses & Reviews
In a richly inspired debut reminiscent of Snow Falling on Cedars and The English Patient, this stirring novel, set against a magnificent Alaskan backdrop, reveals one of the most closely guarded secrets of World War II in a tale that is both a heart-quickening mystery and a unique love story.
Beautifully told in a poignant dual narration, The Cloud Atlas sheds remarkable light on a little-known chapter of history while bringing the wild beauty of Alaska — and the grievous days of war — vividly to life. During World War II, Japan launched close to 10,000 bomb-laden balloons at North America — a "subtle" military action that marked the world's first intercontinental warheads. From this fact, Callanan weaves a story of a young American bomb disposal sergeant, Louis Belk, who is only 18 years old when he is sent on a top-secret mission to Anchorage to chase down these improbable weapons. Alone in an intimidating city filled with bitter reminders of war, it's the people he finds there who haunt him the longest: a Yup'ik Eskimo woman, a shaman, a boy. Sixty years later, each remains like a point on a map, connecting him in waves to the mysteries left unresolved at war's end. And the enigmatic woman who steals his heart will send him on a lifelong journey to discover the truth behind friendship, trust, and love.
During World War II, Louis Belk, a young American bomb disposal sergeant, is sent on a mission to Anchorage, Alaska, to find and disarm the balloon bombs launched by the Japanese against North America, a search that leads him to encounters with a variety of haunting individuals and sends him on a lifelong quest to understand the meaning of faith, friendship, trust, and love. A first novel.
Set against the magnificent backdrop of Alaska in the waning days of World War II, The Cloud Atlas is an enthralling debut novel, a story of adventure and awakening—and of a young soldier who came to Alaska on an extraordinary, top-secret mission…and found a world that would haunt him forever.
Drifting through the night, whisper-quiet, they were the most sublime manifestations of a desperate enemy: Japanese balloon bombs. Made of rice paper, at once ingenious and deadly, they sailed thousands of miles across the Pacific...and once they started landing, the U.S. scrambled teams to find and defuse them, and then keep them secret from an already anxious public. Eighteen-year-old Louis Belk was one of those men. Dispatched to the Alaskan frontier, young Sergeant Belk was better trained in bomb disposal than in keeping secrets. And the mysteries surrounding his mission only increased when he met his superior officer—a brutal veteran OSS spy hunter who knew all too well what the balloons could do—and Lily, a Yup’ik Eskimo woman who claimed she could see the future.
Louis’s superior ushers him into a world of dark secrets; Lily introduces Louis to an equally disorienting world of spirits—and desire. But the world that finally tests them all is Alaska, whose vastness cloaks mysteries that only become more frightening as they unravel. Chasing after the ghostly floating weapons, Louis embarks upon an adventure that will lead him deep into the tundra. There, on the edge of the endless wilderness, he will make a discovery and a choice that will change the course of his life.
At once a heart-quickening mystery and a unique love story, The Cloud Atlas is also a haunting, lyrical rendering of a little-known chapter in history. Brilliantly imagined, beautifully told, this is storytelling at its very best.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Liam Callanan teaches creative writing at Georgetown University and frequently appears on NPR’s Morning Edition and in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and a number of other publications. This is his first novel.
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