Phil Kyle likes being an introvert. But when he reads a passage that makes him realize he has never had a meaningful relationship - with anyone - he ditches his mildly successful career for an isolated mountain cabin. Phil makes a few tentative friendships in the mountains and a few enemies. Between internal and external skirmishes Phil meets sages from the Himalayas, rescues damsels in distress, soars among the clouds, and falls in love. All within forty miles of his cabin. After an incident exposes Phil’s dark past, he can no longer ignore the powerful voices that dictated his life. While getting a grip on the ominous voices, an unthinkable tragedy threatens to plunge Phil into permanent, hellish isolation. Seeing truth as a potent cure that can be more dangerous than any evil, Phil fears he is too weak to stand up to his truth.
The meticulous descriptions of Kyle’s breadmaking, calligraphy, and flight simulation are extensive, but McMahon dedicates this same level of detail to his protagonist’s thoughts, offering readers an intimate look at Kyle’s complex inner landscape: his social anxiety, difficulty dealing with conflict, and shame at his professional failings. The plot’s gentle pace allows Kyle’s personal revelations to develop in a realistic way, with false starts and hard-won incremental progress, and much of this progress comes from connections he makes with the locals. Though the dialogue is occasionally somewhat stiff, these characters are well-rounded and create complex, meaningful relationships with Kyle.
McMahon’s intricate relationships give additional dimension to the story’s thought-provoking themes. Several of the people he meets are military veterans, allowing for a full exploration of the devastating effects of PTSD. This and other forms of trauma are prevalent in the novel, and though their depictions may disturb sensitive readers, McMahon treats this difficult material with care. Though McMahon frequently links Kyle’s spiritual and psychological stumbling blocks to his particular personality type, Kyle’s struggle to better understand himself and the kind of life he wants to live will resonate with many. This empathetic window into a midlife crisis will inspire both deeper reflection and greater self-acceptance.
Takeaway: Patient readers will develop a genuine bond with the protagonist of this thoughtful journey towards mental health and self-actualization.
Great for fans of: Lauren Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, Nikki Grimes’s Ordinary Hazards.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-