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Possessed by Shadowsby Donigan Merritt
Synopses & Reviews
Possessed by Shadows is the story of two climbers who spend a year traveling from the rugged desert of Joshua Tree National Park to the Alps, the Himalayas, and the High Tatra mountains of Czechoslovakia.
Philosophy professor Tom Valen narrates part of their story: the time he spent climbing with his wife, Molly, as she fought cancer. He also explores the journal she kept during the emotional period before her death, which occurred in the weeks before the Velvet Revolution in late 1989.
Told in alternating voices as Tom relives that year, Molly's journal reveals compulsions that he never suspected, her romantic life from adolescence into adulthood, and a shocking revelation about Stefan, a fellow climber who had once saved Tom's life. In the final scene of the novel, the three old friends climb the highest mountain in the Tatras one last time, where they find a kind of redemption in the face of impending death.
Possessed by Shadows is a tribute to selfless love and the bonds of friendship forged in the extremes of high mountains. It confronts us with the ultimate philosophical challenge: since we must die, how do we choose to live?
"An avid rock climber refuses to go gently in Merritt's gorgeous sixth novel. The story of Molly and Tom begins with a terrible irony: doctors examining Molly after a climbing accident (a falling rock knocked her unconscious during a climb at Tahquitz, Calif., forcing her husband, Tom, to stage a dramatic rescue) discover an inoperable brain tumor. At Molly's insistence, the two travel to Europe to climb their favorite peaks again before she dies. That setup is enough for a compelling and tragic love story, but alternating narratives and a long-kept secret make the novel even more powerful. Chapters switch between Tom's devoted, melancholy reminiscences of his last year with Molly and the text of an autobiography she wrote in her waning days, giving the story great depth of feeling. And Molly's past affair with another climber, one of Tom's best friends, hovers over events like a gray haze, adding emotional complexity. The only real problem is that Merritt's fixation on the nuances of serious climbing will be of interest primarily to other climbers; everyone else will skim ahead before slowing again at the next moment of searing humanity. Agent, Kathy Green, Carlisle & Company. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The story of two mountaineers who travel all over the world, finally finding a kind of redemption in the face of impending death as they climb the highest peak in the Tatras.
About the Author
Donigan Merritt is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop and the author of seven novels, among them One Easy Piece (1981) and My Sister's Keeper (1983). He lives in Washington, DC.
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