Tuesday, January 8, 2013
As It Is On Earth by Peter M. Wheelwright
Peter Wheelwright has written a wonderful debut novel. As It Is On Earth follows the stories of a New England family with roots going back to colonial times, and even further through some Native American blood. Taylor Thatcher is the protagonist and has lost his way. He is teaching but feeling out of touch; he has lost his love due to his inability to share his feelings, and he is worried about his brother Bingham.
While Taylor lives in the theoretical world, Bin, as he is known, is his opposite. He is a prosaic scientist, interested in the relics of the natural world that tell us of our place here on Earth. Bin and Taylor are half-brothers and cousins. Their father married twin sisters, each of whom died very young after having a son. The two boys were raised by a nurse/housekeeper named Esther. Esther was a strong woman who came to New England from her Louisiana upbringing to escape a violent husband.
Now the boys are grown, and Taylor believes that Bin has lost his way. He thought Bin was set up on the family farm with a strong love with the girl next door, but Bin has unexpectedly left that life. He shows up in the town where Taylor is teaching and is showing signs of strain, such as sleeping on the fire escape. Taylor decides that it is his mission to make Bin's life better and he believes that he has the solution. He has met a woman photographer, Miryam, who he believes can solve all of Bin's issues.
The novel explores the role of family, and how tangled familial relationships can affect all parts of one's life. Taylor cannot move forward in his own life until he resolves the role that family secrets from his childhood have had on his adult life. Wheelwright has created a strong character who seems lost but his love for others is the strength that will save him. This book is recommended for readers interested in books about how families make us who we are as adults, and those interested in how individuals can get unstuck in their lives when they aren't making progress.