Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Four Corners of the Sky

Michael Malone, The Four Corners of the Sky (Napersville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2009), 547 pages

Flying has always been in Annie Peregrine’s blood. As a child, her father called her a “flyer” and “gave” her and old plane he’d won in a card game. She is now a top-notch Navy pilot who is teaching at Annapolis and is scheduled to fly an experimental aircraft with the hope of breaking a speed record. Taking some time off before the test flight, she heads back to North Carolina to back to the Peregrine home back in North Carolina to reconnect with family and friends. She was raised by her Aunt Sam and her “Uncle” Clark. They aren't married (they’re not even lovers, as her aunt is a lesbian), but they both raised Annie after her father abandoned her at the age of seven. Annie’s life is in turmoil (She is trying to obtain a divorce from her cheating husband), but she has no idea just how bad things will become before they improve. On her drive back to North Carolina, she receives a call from a police detective from Miami, looking for her father (she hasn't talked to him since she was a young girl). Over the next few days, her life goes into a tailspin as she learns her father is dying and has a need for her to fly the airplane that he’d given her to St. Louis. Fearing this might be her last chance to learn about her mother, she heads off, flying in stormy weather. From there, it’s off to Miami and even to Cuba, all in the hunt for her mother, her father and an old Spanish treasure that was taken from a sunken galleon. At the end of the book, her life is back together. She’s divorced and has remarried; she has learned about her true mother and has a new found respect for her father (you’ll have to read the book to learn the details). She even learns that her best friend is also her cousin and this woman (who is a psychiatrist) life is back together as she has lost enough weight to once again dress in a size eight.

This is a complex story. There is the African-American Vietnam-vet, who’d lost his legs when his fighter crashed into the China Sea. Legless, he runs an airport and teaches Annie to fly. Clark is also a Vietnam Veteran. Her neighbor, Trevor, works for the FBI. Her ex-husband, who was also a Navy pilot, is now the president of the family Jet business. She and her husband both fought in the Gulf War. Her father’s side kick is a Jewish refugee from Cuba and another con-artist. Her family has a long history, going back to the Civil War. As the story unfolds, we learn of family secrets going back several generations, which provides clues as to why things are the way they are. And then there are the lines from movies (and Shakespeare) that get sprinkled throughout the book.

Although I liked the book, I found it long and dragging at points. It seems that Malone could have tightened up the story a bit. I was a little disappointed that this book wasn't very funny. Having read Malone’s earlier novel, Handling Sin, which is hilarious, I was looking for some good belly laughs. Instead, I found this book to be a bit “soap operatic,” which shouldn't be surprising as Malone (who is now a professor at Duke) has made a career writing script for soap operas. I also found the plot to be similar to Handling Sin. In both books, a father has abandoned the family and then sends off his abandoned child (in Handling Sin, the main character is a man) on a wild goose chase that has a tie to past wars (in Handling Sin, it was the Civil War, in The Four Corners of the Sky, it’s the Spanish American War). There are also other similarities in the way the books are wrapped up with everything restored to a “new normal.” Both of these books are like a Shakespearean comedy, where the world gets turned upside down only to be restored and everyone to live “happily ever-after.”

If you haven’t read Malone, I would encourage you to first check out is earlier novel, Handling Sin (the link is to my review). It is one of the funniest books I’ve read. As for this book, it’s okay, but not great.

Folks, life is real busy right now.  I may be late getting around to check on your blogs.


  1. I'll have a look at Handling Sin. I've never read anything by Malone.

  2. That is interesting that his style is a bit different than with the first book. I'll have to check that one out.

  3. Never read anything by this author- but have been on the hunt for a good read. Think I'll read the latter, as I could use a good laugh:)

    Hope you still have time to stop and smell the flowers:))))

  4. Soap sells. I like the detail about how things work out so well, there's even a welcome weight loss. It's encouraging, though, to find that some people still believe there's a market for long novels.

    As for writers repeating their own plots, I've had that complaint about John Irving.

  5. Do you not find editing with a successful writer is the downfall of many a good book. Or rather the lack thereof.
    It seems that the publishing house is fearful of something. Perhaps a threat by the writer that he will move to another house if there is much interference with the manuscript.

  6. I'm glad I read this. As you may remember, I loved Handling Sin also and would likely have bought this book. Now, I won't be so quick to do it.

  7. This one doesn't sound up my alley. I don't mind epic stories with numerous characters and subplots but it's tough to pull those off successfully. It sounds like this author fell short.


  8. I think I'm quite satisfied reading your review; Sage, have you ever thought of consulting authors about their next books after one of your reviews!

  9. I read this a couple months ago and liked it a lot. I'd never heard of him before.

    I'm just starting "Dingley Falls."