By: Jonathan Slusher
Publisher: Cow Chip Press
Publication Date: June 24, 2009
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 2009
It’s strange how a book with such a simple plot, traveling from California to Pennsylvania for a friend’s funeral, can so completely draw a reader in. But that’s just what happened when I picked up Jonathan Slusher’s book Water Landing early one morning. Intending to read a few chapters before starting my day, I instead curled up on my sofa and read the whole book.
Luke Kettle lives in California, with a job he doesn’t really like, an ex-girlfriend that he still thinks about, and not much direction in his life. When Sara Mead, a friend from high school, dies, Luke is asked by her father to read a poem at the funeral. Luke agrees and so must travel back East where he encounters family, old school friends, and Sara’s grieving parents.
Water Landing is written in the first person and the author immediately puts the reader at ease with a conversational style that flows easily from page to page. It is as though you are having a casual chat with a good friend over lunch. Luke occasionally injects comments such as “I have to apologize; you’re getting to know me at a bad time,” which remind the reader that Luke is talking to you, not simply putting his thoughts on paper. Luke discusses his own shortcomings, concerns, and uncertainties about both his relationship with Sara and those around him.
There are many events in Water Landing that ring true to daily life in their simplicity and yet the author writes in such a way as to convey the angst and turmoil through each character’s reaction. When Luke is picked up by his brother Gabriel at the airport, Gabriel’s girlfriend has come along for the ride and it quickly becomes apparent that the two are in the midst of a fight. Luke is caught in the middle and he, and the reader, are uncomfortable on the too long ride to Gabriel’s apartment. The conversation Luke has with Sara’s father, about her last days, how she was taken advantage of by the ‘Church on the Move,’ and how important Luke was to Sara, makes Luke squirm in his chair. Is Mr. Mead praising or criticizing Luke? As the conversation draws on, it is apparent that Mr. Mead is fond of Luke and the way he cared for Sara, but then the father’s overwhelming concern for Luke’s welfare again makes the young man uncomfortable. Along with Luke, the reader may shuffle in his/her chair.
The title of this book is taken from the many flights Luke takes, both to visit Sara before her death, as well as to the funeral and after. “In the event of a water landing,” becomes something of a joke to Luke, but it also refers to his own personal water landing. Will he find himself before he crash lands? “…I need to find a new way to gamble on somehow living that life I envisioned. I need to believe there is still a chance for it.” Luke needs to find purpose in his life, and Jonathan Slusher has written Water Landing in a way that carries the reader along on that journey of discovery.
Quill says: A simple, yet compelling look at one man’s journey to finding himself.
To learn more about Water Landing, please visit the book's website at: Water Landing.net