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THE ASTRAL

The Irony of Perspective, a Book Club Discussion
By Neely Kennedy

In the LHJ book club July pick, The Astral, author Kate Christensen tells the modern day realist story of Harry Quirk, a poet who finds his life in shambles; a mid-life crisis. His wife, Luz, suspecting him of cheating, throws him out of their thirty-year residence and demands a divorce. Here he finds himself out of a job, a home, a marriage, and even his last writing effort has been lost. Directionless and in shock, Harry wanders on his bike through the streets of Brooklyn, from flophouse, to bars, to visiting old friends. While trying to reconnect with his children, he revisits memories from his life searching for clues that might help explain how he came to be in his current situation. As he moves through the stages of crisis, self-defense, and ultimately reconciliation, Harry finally cultivates a perspective that allows him to stop looking back so that he can begin to live again.

Below are examples that outline the evolution of Harry’s life perspective, and his epiphany that life is not just about drifting from experience to experience—whether we are ready or not, age, love and life march forward.

Where Did We Go Wrong? — Shocked by the betrayal of Luz’ accusation of his infidelity, Harry reflects honestly on how she could have arrived at such an erroneous conclusion, from two people who had once been so madly in love.

“But through the decades, things had gotten dirty between us, corrupted by familiarity, the pain we caused each other on purpose and by accident, our blind spots, all the things we couldn’t say or see.”

Perfect Strangers — A of the slow progression of time and self-preoccupation, Harry discovers he missed the transition of a tight-knit family, who were not only no longer a unit, but drastically different people.

“It hadn’t been perfect, but we had been a family once, and now, it seemed, we were four separate people flung asunder to our various, unrelated fates. This made me feel lonelier than I had ever been in my life.”

Changing Tides — Finally swimming with, instead of against, the current of his life, Harry accepts Luz’s decision to divorce, and considers the possibilities ahead.

“We were all crazy, that was a given. Marybe though, I could choose someone whose vulnerabilities and reactions I could actually live with, whose brand of craziness jibed with my own.”

Man’s Search for Meaning —A friend finally helps Harry realize he has outgrown his old writing habits and life coping mechanism in dealing with the world in purely, experienced-based, literal forms as an atheist and realist.

“Write about this need for some sort of faith in order to keep on writing. The search for transcendence after a deliberately faithless life. This could be an epic poem. A masterwork.”

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