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The Infinite Tidesby Christian Kiefer
Synopses & Reviews
Keith Corcoran has spent his entire life preparing to be an astronaut. At the moment of his greatness, finally aboard the International Space Station, hundreds of miles above the earths swirling blue surface, he receives word that his sixteen-year-old daughter has died in a car accident, and that his wife has left him. Returning to earth, and to his now empty suburban home, he is alone with the ghosts, the memories and feelings he can barely acknowledge, let alone process. He is a mathematical genius, a brilliant engineer, a famous astronaut, but nothing in his life has readied him for this.
With its endless interlocking culs-de-sac, big box stores, and vast parking lots, contemporary suburbia is not a promising place to recover from such trauma. But healing begins through new relationships, never Keith's strength, first as a torrid affair with one neighbor, and then as an unlikely friendship with another, a Ukrainian immigrant who every evening lugs his battered telescope to the weed-choked vacant lot at the end of the street. Gazing up at the heavens together, drinking beer and smoking pot, the two men share their vastly different experiences and slowly reveal themselves to each other, until Keith can begin to confront his loss and begin to forgive himself for decades of only half-living. The Infinite Tides is a deeply moving, tragicomic, and ultimately redemptive story of love, loss, and resilience. It is also an indelible and nuanced portrait of modern American life that renders both our strengths and weaknesses with great and tender beauty.
"Poet and English professor Kiefer features, in his smart first novel, Capt. Keith Corcoran, 'genius' mathematician, engineer, and astronaut working aboard the International Space Station, who discovers during his deployment that his 16-year-old daughter has died in a car wreck and his wife, embroiled in an affair, wants a divorce. Once back on the ground, Keith takes an indefinite vacation from NASA while battling recurring migraines and his sudden solitude, and hanging out at the local Starbucks, where he befriends Peter Kovalenko, an impetuous Ukrainian former astronomer presently working at Target. The two alienated men soon bond and share their various misfortunes while smoking pot, drinking beer, and stargazing through Peter's telescope in an abandoned suburban lot. The bereft Keith divorces his wife, puts the house on the market, and strikes up his own sordid tryst with his promiscuous married neighbor, Jennifer. Keith's stasis and confusion stem, in part, from his uncertain job status, but his newfound relationships enable him to strive toward a self that will persevere and survive his losses. Though occasionally rambling, this is an astute, impressive, and ambitious debut. Agent: Eleanor Jackson, Markson Thoma Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Smart, lyrical, deeply moving. The central character, a NASA astronaut who has touched the stars, must come to earth, as we all must. What he finds down here beneath the heavens is dizzying in its emotional complexity and pure aching beauty." T.C. Boyle, author of When the Killings Done
"The Infinite Tides takes as its subject an astronaut brought to earth by abandonment and bewilderment. His journey is into the unknown of common suburbia, which he inhabits like an alien, and in whose unfamiliar atmosphere he must be taught to survive. This is a subtle and moving novel, a re-entry and recovery story that eloquently inhabits the terrain of grief and endurance." Antonya Nelson, author of Bound
"With astronaut Keith Corcoran, Kiefer will take you on an awesome American life odyssey from the International Space Station down to the lower depths of suburbia. This is a breathtakingly beautiful and honest rendering of one man's massive life crisis. Part Space Oddity, part Revolutionary Road, this is a magnificently original novel. There are moments in this book I will never forget." Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead
"This novel will break your heart and take your breath away." Ayelet Waldman, author of Red Hook Road
"Maybe the most beautiful subject in literature, when it is handled with grace and intelligence, is the realization and release of long denied grief. Christian Kiefer created astronaut Keith Corcoran to travel that galaxy of earthbound loss and regret, after one brief and glorious trip into orbit. The Infinite Tides is the most emotionally and syntactically sophisticated debut I have seen, possibly ever. Keith Corcoran's space walk is so powerfully rendered, it keeps showing up in my dreams." Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted
Set in depleted, post-recession suburbia, with its endlessly interlocking cul-de-sacs, mega-parking lots and big box stores, The Infinite Tides tells the story of star astronaut Keith Corcoran's return to earth. Keith comes home from a lengthy mission aboard the International Space Station to find his wife and daughter gone, and a house completely empty of furniture, as if Odysseus had returned to Ithaca to find that everyone he knew had forgotten about him and moved on.
Keith is a mathematical and engineering genius, but he is ill equipped to understand what has happened to him, and how he has arrived at the center of such vacancy. Then, he forges an unlikely friendship with a neighboring Ukrainian immigrant, and slowly begins to reconnect with the world around him. As the two men share their vastly different personal and professional experiences, they paint an indelible and nuanced portrait of modern American life. The result is a deeply moving, tragicomic and ultimately redemptive story of love, loss and resilience, and of two lives lived under the weight of gravity.
About the Author
Christian Kiefer earned his Ph.D. in American literature from the University of California, Davis, and is on the English faculty of American River College in Sacramento. His poetry has appeared in various national journals including the Antioch Review and Santa Monica Review. He is also an accomplished songwriter and recording artist. He lives in the hill country north of Sacramento with his wife and five sons.
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