BookBrowse Reviews We Own the Sky by Luke Allnutt

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We Own the Sky

by Luke Allnutt

We Own the Sky by Luke Allnutt X
We Own the Sky by Luke Allnutt
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Apr 2018, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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A moving novel that follows one parent's response to their child's serious illness.

Rob and Anna Coates have an idyllic life together; they have successful careers, love each other beyond reason, and have a beautiful five-year-old boy, Jack. Concern begins to overwhelm their happiness, however, as they first notice that their son is having balance issues and then he begins to experience blackouts. The diagnosis: brain cancer. Luke Allnutt's debut novel, We Own the Sky, follows Rob as he narrates his travels along a road no parent should have to navigate – the declining health and ultimate death of one's child.

A book with this premise at its core seems like it would be depressing, but I didn't find it so for the most part. The story's not really about Jack, it's about Rob – how he handles the situation, the choices he makes, the emotional rollercoaster he rides throughout. The novel keeps us squarely in Rob's head, to the point that we might even forget his wife is making this journey as well. The author's perception of what a parent may be going through under such circumstances is remarkable and feels spot-on, as is his ability to get readers to relate to his sometimes unlikeable protagonist. Rob's voice is authentic; one can feel his determination to be optimistic and his anger when well-meaning friends offer what he takes to be misplaced sympathy, as if they're writing off his son when he's certain Jack will recover.

Was that it? The consensus? That we were to enjoy the time that we had left with Jack? That we were to celebrate every sunrise, every dew-dappled morning? Because Jack was a "survivor" now, on a "journey." Oh, how I had already begun to hate those words.

Rob's relationship with Anna is realistically portrayed, as is their individual responses to Jack's diagnosis; Anna starts thinking in terms of palliative care while Rob wants to pursue long-shot cures. "It's as if we were listening to different conversations," he remarks after one doctor's visit. Like so many of us, Rob uses social media and the Internet to bolster his opinion, picking and choosing the comments and websites that support his position while ignoring more credible information, causing conflict with his extremely pragmatic wife.

The book continues beyond Jack's death, following Rob in his grief. While Rob's narration remains convincing in this final quarter, some of the actions he takes seem less realistic. The story does redeem itself in the end and the finale is beautiful without ending in schmaltz.

Not surprisingly, We Own the Sky is by no means a happy novel and will be difficult reading especially for parents. It continues to be part of my consciousness and left me feeling if not happy, at least hopeful and enriched. I recommend it to those who enjoy truly well-written fiction.

Reviewed by Kim Kovacs

This review is from the May 30, 2018 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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Beyond the Book:
  Brain Cancer in Childhood

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