PRINCIPLES OF NAVIGATION

Lynn Sloan

In a small town in Indiana, Alice Becotte wants desperately what should be simple: a baby. What Alice’s husband, Rolly, wants is time for his art. He’s a talented sculptor with ambitions that draw him away from his steady teaching gig at a “backwater” college. Alice, the lone full-time reporter for their local, struggling newspaper, isn’t as invested in her career. The crack in their marriage widens when, finally pregnant, the pair face devastating news.

It’s 1999, a time when the world is afraid of falling apart once the new millennium arrives. Told from both character’s points of view,

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In a small town in Indiana, Alice Becotte wants desperately what should be simple: a baby. What Alice’s husband, Rolly, wants is time for his art. He’s a talented sculptor with ambitions that draw him away from his steady teaching gig at a “backwater” college. Alice, the lone full-time reporter for their local, struggling newspaper, isn’t as invested in her career. The crack in their marriage widens when, finally pregnant, the pair face devastating news.

It’s 1999, a time when the world is afraid of falling apart once the new millennium arrives. Told from both character’s points of view, this haunting novel offers readers a complex, surprising, and memorable story about a couple’s struggle as their worlds threaten to collapse. When each partner is tested and found wanting, they forge a new way forward, without map or compass, guided only by fragile and fleeting glimpses of grace.

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  • Fomite Press
  • Paperback
  • January 2015
  • 294 Pages
  • 9781937677930

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About Lynn Sloan

Lynn Sloan is a writer and photographer who grew up as an Air Force brat, moving from state to state and country to country. Once she could decide where to live, she chose a share-your-tomatoes, shovel-your-neighbors’-snow neighborhood in Evanston, Illinois.

She graduated from Northwestern University, earned a master’s degree in photography at The Institute of Design, formerly the New Bauhaus. Her fine art photographs have been exhibited nationally and internationally, and collected by major museums. For many years, she taught in the photography department of Columbia College Chicago and wrote for Afterimage, Art Week, and Exposure.

Writing about the visual arts led to writing fiction. Her stories have appeared in numerous journals, including American Literary Review, The Literary Review, Nimrod, and Sou’wester. Principles of Navigation is her first novel.

Praise

[A]n absorbing, poignant novel that artfully distills the many ways in which love can fail us — yet also take us by surprise when we need it most.

Katherine Shonk, author of Happy Now? and The Red Passport

“ . . . a tender, thoughtful story of a couple whose once happy marriage dissolves amidst the stress of infertility and infidelity—and unmet expectations. . . . quietly compelling. It is by no means a heart-pounding page-turner, but it is a page-turner nonetheless, a subtle story that gnaws and needles long after the cover is closed. “—Chicago Book Review

“…this is a book which reeled me in slowly…Any writer who can keep me thinking of their characters even after I have finished reading their story, is an author I can highly recommend. If you love literary fiction, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Principles of Navigation – I promise you won’t be disappointed.”—Caribou’s Mom

Beneath their outwardly conventional surfaces, both wife and husband reckon with realities darker and deeper and wilder than they had grown up to expect. For its psychological acuity and for its narrative grace, Principles of Navigation is at once deeply satisfying and unsettling.

Richard Hawley, author of The Headmaster’s Papers, The Headmaster’s Wife, and The Other World.

Discussion Questions

Many couples have trouble conceiving. Lynn Sloan uses this particular couple’s struggle as a lens through which to address questions of marriage and family. How is marriage presented in the novel? What does the book suggest about families?

Neither Alice or Rolly are religious, but Alice finds solace in her connection to the Virgin Mary. Why? How do the religious scenes work to advance the story?

Why is it important to the novel that it is set in 1999?

Do you think Rolly’s choice of using ships in his art is symbolic?

Discuss the mothers in this novel.

Why does the novel have the title it does?

Sometimes Alice thinks of her life in terms of stories and headlines. Is she self-absorbed or is this a way of processing her pain or is this simply how she has been trained to think? Does it diminish her pain when presented as a headline, offering distance? Is this a commentary on how journalists respond to the people about whom they write?

Why do you think the author chose to set this novel in a rural environment?

Alice is scornful of her mother’s decision to remarry. Her mother wants Alice and Rolly to stay together. Why do they each have a stake in each other’s marriages?

Part of the novel is about the commerce of art and the teaching of art. Does the competitive nature of his career affect Rolly’s ability to produce good art?

Alice is critical of Rolly’s work—his “baby,” so to speak. Do you think Alice understands that Rolly, too, is trying to “birth” something?

By the end of the book, have your opinions about Alice and Rolly changed?

Do you think there is a healing in the end of the story? Is there forgiveness? What about hope?