Cloud Cuckoo Land

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At just over six-hundred pages this is not a book for the faint of heart, but oh, please stick with it! This literary masterpiece is so meticulously plotted, so intricate, and so dense with living/breathing characters, evocative time periods and locations, and of course, thematic ideas and plot devices, that this reader found herself bouncing between awe and fascination – mesmerized with the story yet unable to stop appreciating the skill that went into crafting it.

Told in the voices of five wildly different characters, the story arcs and winds on a tantalizingly loosely-connected trail, slowly revealing themes connected to an Ancient Greek story, and the fictional search, by a first-century-born humble and somewhat comical shepherd Aethon, for the magical paradise to be found in the elusive “Cloud Cuckoo Land”.

The five main protagonists, in no particular order, are:

-Konstance – initially presented as a fourteen-year-old girl, (although the story is peppered with many glimpses backward in time) hurtling through space in a self-contained multi-generational space-ship Argos – enroute for a distant planet, watched over by the all-knowing in-command AI, Sybil.

-Zeno – a child raised in the forties, in the suburbs of Idaho, whose voice is achingly poignant, both as octogenarian and a young boy, – an emotionally-repressed observer of life, seeking escape, belonging, and a life freely of his own volition, out of the shadows and accepted for who he is.

-Omeir – born to a Bulgarian woodcutter in the fifteenth-century, Omeir has a split-palate, two beautiful gigantic oxen, (named Tree and Moonlight), and the kindest, gentlest soul one will ever meet between the pages.

-Anna – a Christian child in fifteen-century Constantinople, Anna has a burning drive to learn, to read, to understand worlds constructed with words and the people that came before her.

-Seymour – a current-day child born on the spectrum, Seymour is a warrior, a misfit, seeking quiet communion with nature in a world ablaze with everything but.

Paying literary homage to the library (in all its forms) and its role in the preservation of human knowledge, as the five main characters journey to an understanding of their own internal truths, each of them feeling the “pull of distant places, the immensity of the world and (their) own smallness inside it”, the author illustrates the divine power of the narrative, the story, to transport, redeem, connect, and most of all, comfort us, providing hope and a beacon for an ever-seeking soul to anchor on.

For what is a book but a circle, a spiral, a “resting place for memories” that lay their own tracks to more memories – in such a way that the more we learn, the more we realize is out there, awaiting infusion into the fabric of our lives, in a never-ending and continual vortex.

Easily one of my favorite books this year, I loved this read, – heart filled with the ache of saying goodbye to several of these heart-tugging characters, and a mind swarming with the mystery and magic of the just-out-of-reach promise to emerge “bright and new”, finding one’s very own “golden city”, right here, right now, with every stop between these pages.

A great big thank you to Edelweiss for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.


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