Published by St. Martin's Press
Publication date: July 1st 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Literary, Magical Realism
For many, there are few ideas more compelling than that of perfect love. To meet the one person who understands you at your deepest level and loves you unconditionally; a true soulmate. Lydia Netzer takes this dream and puts it on the page in the quirky How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky. Irene Sparks is a prickly astrophysicist attempting to create a black hole in her lab. When she does so, she is invited to continue her research at the prestigious Toledo Institute of Astronomy. George Dermont is an instructor and cosmologist teaching at the Academy. Three years before Irene arrives he visits a psychic in a semi-drunken state after his most recent break-up. The woman knows his name before he says a word, increasing his confidence in her predictions. He’s told that his true love is a brunette, living in Toledo, and that she’s an astronomer. So, for the last few years George has been making his way through the brunette faculty with no success. When Irene arrives and they meet, George is certain she is the woman he has been told to look for. Irene is significantly less certain but does feel a very strong pull of emotions, namely lust, which she has never felt before.
Little do they know that their mothers, Sally and Bernice, met in the fifth grade and after living through the acrimony of their parents’ bad divorces they begin the kind of conversation so many teens love— how they could do things much better. For the girls the idea of arranged marriage is the first step, but not for them because their parents are too messed up to arrange it. Instead, what if they got pregnant at the same time, raised their children together when they were young, indoctrinating them with a love of many of the same music and books but also incorporating differences so there would be yin to yang?
They would train them independently to be magnets, north and south, that would click together when they met, years later, at the appointed time.
What began as a teenage fantasy becomes real through a combination of Sally’s indomitable will and Bernice’s funky psychic abilities. It is only when George and Irene are small children that an event occurs that pulls Sally and Bernice apart and permanently severs their connection and their plans for their children. At the same time, it sets into motion an equal and opposite reaction (sound familiar?) that brings the two back into contact when they’re adults.
There is a lot going on in How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky but Netzer ensures that the main storyline is the sun around which everything else orbits and that each of the main characters has enough pull to keep the reader engaged. It is a testament to her gift that the novel is charming, light and funny even as it deals with issues that are none of these things. Instead, with a subtle hand and poignant prose she looks at love as a force that both creates and destroys. Whether a dreamer who looks at the stars for their beauty or a thinker who studies them closely through a telescope this novel will enchant.
This book can be purchased online at:
The Elliott Bay Book Company