Friday, April 3, 2020

Book Review: 'Things Behind the Sun: A Novel' by David W. Berner

Things Behind the Sun by David W. Berner

‘Martin had come to measure his life…in time rather than in distance’ – A road trip

Having read and been deeply moved by David's ANY ROAD WILL TAKE YOU THERE, this reader wrote the following: ‘Chicago author David W. Berner has been around the block - he is an award-winning journalist, writer, documentarian, and an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago where he teaches Writing for Radio, Radio Storytelling, and Radio/Audio Documentary in the Radio Department at CCC. His essays and his books are highly respected and highly consumed. His honors includes Writer-in-Residence at the Jack Kerouac Project in Orlando, Florida, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, Illinois, and has been recognized for his literary and artistic achievements by the Chicago Public Library Foundation at the 2016 Carl Sandburg Literary Awards. In his words, `I first experienced how important a writing space could be when I was given the opportunity to be the writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, Florida. It's the modest home he lived with his mother after all the attention of On the Road, and where he wrote The Dharma Bums. The three-month experience of writing in such a revered place, allowed for a renewed attention to "place" in a story. Setting can be as much a character in a work as the voices heard in those spaces. When I started writing Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons, my memoir of a 5000-mile road trip and the struggles and triumphs of fatherhood, I rediscovered the importance of space, setting, and place. Where the story happens, why it happens in that location, in that house, on that road is crucial to the story. Each of the stops along the long journey in Any Road Will Take You There evokes a memory, a moment that fuels the trip and the story. Just like the places where I write, the places in my stories have meaning, something true and honest and revealing.'

Equally impressed with A WELL-RESPECTED MAN, this reader consumed David’s new novel THINGS BEHIND THE SUN, a follow up to that book, and found it equally impressive, that rare combination of involving story with philosophical questions of how we travel through life with the many interruptions and split second decisions that alter our journey. As the synopsis distills: `Gregory Martin believes he has one last shot at emotionally connecting with the son he adopted seventeen years ago from the only woman he ever loved. A long road trip could be the answer. But the boy has other ideas as the two of them navigate the past and contemplate the future during a summer journey through the American West. The trip uncovers long-held secrets—both Martin's and his son's—and becomes an exploration of whether the deep emotions that brought them together in the first place are more important than what could tear them apart. Things Behind the Sun is an inspired coming-of-age story about the powerful, complicated yet enduring bond between fathers and sons...'

An element that is a constant in David's writing is his enormous sense of humanity. He is as much a philosopher of the porch swing variety as anyone writing today. Read, smile, think, read again and enjoy. Highly Recommended.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.