Monday, May 11, 2009

Four Corners of the Sky

You may not have read any of Michael Malone's novels, but you have probably seen one. The covers of his novels are particularly eye catching with great use of color. The cover of his latest novel, the Four Corners of the Sky, features a girl running and carrying an airplane on the cover. That little girl is Annie. At age seven, her father abandoned her at her aunt and uncle's farm, leaving her only a beat up airplane as a remembrance. As a child, the girl was a metaphorical flyer, fleeing from place to place with her con artist father. As she grew, she started flying for real, attending Annapolis and becoming a Navy pilot. At age 26, her father contacts her again, promising to finally give Annie the name of her mother if she will come to his deathbed...with one or two items he left behind.

Against her better judgment she goes to find her father, starting a loopy quest that brings in all manner of odd characters, including Cubans, the Feds, local Miami police and Brad, the husband Annie is trying to divorce, but can't quite seem to shake. Malone is a native North Carolinian and he is clearing working in the tradition of the Southern tall tale. The characters are often over the top, including the foul-mouth disabled pilot who teaches Annie to fly and assists in her quest and the Shakespeare loving con who helps her Dad on one last giant con. The story gets increasingly wild with multiple people chasing Annie and her Dad for differing reasons.

You don't need to have read any Baum, or even to have seen the movie, to note that the story is heavily influenced by the Wizard of Oz. Annie lives in Emerald, flies her rattle-trap plane into a tornado, nearly loses her dog, and does her fair share to help the cowardly and the broken- hearted.

Not that you need to be a fan of Oz to enjoy this book. Malone's background includes writing for soap operas as well as crime novels. The Four Corners of the Sky has elements of soap opera, with heavy doses of romance, and crime, with crime at the center of the plot, but really this is a big book about families and the odd people in your family. This is one for those who want a giant, crazy story in which to sink themselves.

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