Tom Beaumont is a listless man trying to make sense of a chaotic, possibly doomed world. It is 1986, and a comet known as Fletcher’s rock is hurtling toward Earth on a collision course set for eighteen months in the future. For Beaumont, the inevitability of this event is hard to accept. He is a man of some learning, one who questions the world before him like a good critic, a good reader of the signs and information provided to him. While his recent days have been spent building boats for Stearns Fiberglass, his time in libraries as a young man and his early dreams of being a writer developed a need to look beyond the surface. But that skepticism isn’t welcome in Near Haven, Maine, in what just might be the last months of creation.
The structure of Near Haven, the debut novel from author Matthew Stephen Sirois, is a countdown broken into four parts, all separated by literary epigraphs. While the first two parts of the novel are a bit clunky, the third and fourth parts are taut and tension-filled. Because of this, the structure seems to mimic the struggle Beaumont experiences. In parts one and two, Tom ricochets through a world crumbling around him, hesitant to be labeled a “shomee”—someone who questions the validity of Fletcher’s rock. But, in the latter parts, he has purpose and direction, some of which is brought on by his drinking buddy, Bradford, and Sharon, the kind veterinarian who helps him with his ailing cat, Buck. Tom’s confrontation with loss, meaning, and just how much we are willing to accept without proof is timely in an age when information comes and changes so quickly.
Fans of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or Alfonso Cuaron’s film Children of Men will find a kindred book in Sirois’s Near Haven, all works dealing with what it means to survive. Sirois’s novel, set against the late 1980s backdrop of northern Maine, offers Beaumont as an everyman, allowing readers to experience fear and hope alongside the man looking to the sea for salvation as the sky threatens above.
|Matthew Stephen Sirois
|Belle Lutte Press
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