cover image The Sky Was Ours

The Sky Was Ours

Joe Fassler. Penguin, $18 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-0-14-313568-5

The dream of flight enthralls an aimless young woman in Fassler’s stunning debut. In the mid-2000s, 24-year-old Jane Hannah-Smith impulsively flees her coding program in Ithaca, N.Y., landing in the tiny town of Lack near the Canadian border. There, she’s drawn to eccentric Barry Haliban, who’s living off the grid in a dilapidated house and working on making human-powered wings. His son, Ike, tries to convince him of the futility of the project and warns him of the risks after Barry sustains several serious injuries from failed flight attempts. Still, with Jane at his side, Barry persists, driven not just by the desire to fly but to share the knowledge with others. He envisions a secret unregulated movement of DIY wing-makers and fliers, one that would render national borders meaningless and the police powerless to stop them. When Barry and Jane finally soar through the air with their stick-and-linen contraptions, they’re intoxicated by the sensation (“There was nothing but the rush of wind in my ears and a sense of life-giving speed”). Fassler’s audacious premise is buoyed by pristine prose and vibrant characterizations. The result is a captivating fairy tale of the slippery line between fanatic and genius. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Apr.)