Review: You Can See More From Up Here by Mark Guerin

First, a confession: this book was one of the first ARCs I received when I joined NetGalley a year ago, so I am way late reading this. I can only apologize and promise to do much better moving forward. Oh, and I can also chastise myself for not ready this book sooner, because it’s a real gem.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

In 2004, when middle-aged Walker Maguire is called to the deathbed of his estranged father, his thoughts return to 1974. He’d worked that summer at the auto factory where his dad, an unhappily retired Air Force colonel, was employed as plant physician. Witness to a bloody fight falsely blamed on a Mexican immigrant, Walker kept quiet, fearing his white co-workers and tyrannical father. Lies snowball into betrayals, leading to a life-long rift between father and son that can only be mended by the past coming back to life and revealing its long-held secrets. You Can See More From Up Here is a coming-of-age tale about the illusion of privilege and the power of the past to inform and possibly heal the present.

My thoughts

This book was a very pleasant surprise for me. I admit that I was interested by the description, but not exactly excited to read it. Once I got started, I was completely engaged and enjoyed it so much.

The writing is very good—hard to believe this is Guerin’s debut novel—and the story is well structured. You Can See More From Up Here is dual-timeline story: Walker’s coming of age tale in the 1970s, and then a coming-home reckoning tale in 2004. The story unfolds beautifully in both.

Walker is a sympathetic character and his struggles with his father make for some achingly poignant reading. In 2004, he sits at his father’s deathbed, having been estranged from him for 30 years, and begins to to write the story of the summer of 1974 and the years of his childhood leading up to it.

The book deals with class, race, immigrant workers, working class struggles, violence and abuse, and family division, all while illustrating the hold that past mistakes and betrayals can have on our present. All of these issues are handled gracefully and in a realistic manner. All of the characters are flawed and very human.

I highly recommend You Can See More From Up Here to those who enjoy well-written literary fiction that makes you feel and doesn’t shy away from difficult issues.


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