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Gentlemen of Space: A Novel Hardcover – March 25, 2003

7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sher's whimsical, elegiac debut novel is about a boy whose father is chosen, in the summer of 1976, to be the first civilian on the moon. The ascent of Jerry Finch-a quixotic Florida junior high school earth science teacher-into the heavens is part of a NASA-sponsored program to revive flagging public interest in space exploration. Narrator Georgie Finch, who was nine years old at the time, recalls the strain that his father's selection brought to the family, as Georgie's skeptical mother, Barbara ("the moon... is a veritable palace of idiots"), tries to suppress her worry about the trip. During the week and a half that Jerry is in space, strange things begin to happen: Georgie receives several phone calls from his father, telling him what it's like in space. Barbara learns that their 16-year-old babysitter, Angie, has been having an affair with Jerry and is now pregnant. And then, Jerry disappears. Georgie, his mother and their town become the center of a media spectacle. The public soon learns of Jerry's affair with the teenager, and Barbara is forced into the role of Jackie O.-style celebrity widow. And while the world's attention is focused on the moon and the search for Jerry, Georgie continues receiving phone calls from his father, who tries to explain to Georgie the mystical nature of the moon and the special connection he feels to it. Sher lets these enigmatic communications-which everyone assumes are Georgie's grief-stricken fantasies-stand without comment, as Georgie himself reflects on the vagaries of memory and the difficulty of sorting out truth and fiction. The novel is an original, haunting twist on a story of childhood loss.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Some of you may (or may not) remember Apollo 19, the ill-fated final mission in which Jerry Finch, junior-high-school Earth Science teacher and starry-eyed dreamer extraordinaire, became the first Everyman on the moon--and decided to stay. You may also remember how the saga of the disappearing astronaut kept a nation glued to its televisions and telescopes and how the tent community of Magnolia Court, Florida, kept vigil even after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin returned home forlorn. Told from the perspective of his young son--perhaps the only one who truly understands the man on the moon--this story also belongs to the captivating cast of earthlings Jerry leaves behind: childhood friend and down-on-his-luck politician Lyle Barnes, vainly self-absorbed academic journalist Bob Nightly, plus Jerry's resentful wife and a (gasp!) pregnant 16-year-old baby-sitter. Sher's affection for his characters is clear, and they shine with softly absurd humor (Neil and Buzz showing support for Jerry by wearing their space suits on Earth, for example) and a DeLillo-like nostalgia for Americana and belief. This is a beautiful, eloquent first novel that dares one to use clever phrases like "rising star" and "out of this world." Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (March 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743242181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743242189
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,171,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a phenomenal novel: big-themed, gorgeously written and strangely suspenseful right up until the last word. Sher's ability to capture the longing and hope of a son toward his absent father - amidst the spectacle of a failed space mission and resulting media frenzy - is stunning. From this foundation Sher builds a grand story that explores the broader human need to believe in and connect to entities greater than themselves (governments, space programs, politicians, and so on). There are passages so exhilerating, so charged with intelligence and invention that I felt as if I were reading a new Ishiguro novel written under a pseudonym. This is a brilliant debut; one that - like The Intuitionist from Colsen Whitehead - indicates a major mind and voice and very good things to come.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
What a great surprise it was to pick up Ira Sher's book - after reading a great review in Time Out - to find a novelist with such wisdom and compassion and instinct for storytelling. The way he recreates the mood and mindset of a surburban family in the 70s is so impressive. There is a great narrative kick toward the end of the book that calls everything you've read into question and - though it will surely confuse some - if read carefully it illuminates great meaning as well as a the mind of a great novelist. Can't wait to read what he does next.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By popjunkie on June 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This debut by Ira Sher was like nothing I've read before. It took me several pages to get into the groove of the author's writing style - he demands a close reading, choosing to pack in a sentence, say, what other writers take a paragraph or two to convey. But, the prose is gorgeous, the imagery beautiful and haunting. The book is about a boy's father who is chosen to be the first "non-astronaut" to walk on the moon. When his father goes "missing," the reaction is not exactly what you'd envision. The novel captures the lost innocence of a previous era, where America held wide-eyed wonder at man's accomplishments, yet it also foretells the squander of the crass and shallow emotionalism and misguided intentions of today's frenzied media exploitations. The novel is not for everyone: I would definitely classify it as "post-modern", for the ending is anything but tidy, but that is, perhaps, exactly what the author intended.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book looking for a whimsical journey. That's not what I found. It's a good idea, even a great idea. A boy's father is chosen to represent `the common man' on a trip to the moon. As a teacher turned astronaut, he goes from being a drab middle-aged man to a national hero who inspires hundreds to camp out on his front lawn for a glimpse of him or his family. But then the shattering news comes that the father is lost on the moon. Is he lost, though, or has he escaped a scandle that surely awaits him at home?
Great idea? Yes. Sure!
But the book is wildly overwritten. I love lyrical prose but this was too much. Sher loses the reader (OK, at least he lost me on many an occasion) by drifting off into some unnecessary wordplay. I'm reminded of those long, boring drum solos at concerts -- you know, the ones that are only entertaining to the guy doing the drumming and not to the people who have to listen to it.
The story becomes too thick. I felt like Sher lost control of the story. And the ending is an unraveled mess. It doesn't leave me anywhere. Oh, but he's sure to leave you with some wordplay... that left me holding onto nothing at all.
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