Castleberry’s debut is an American original, an epic told in tangents. The book doesn’t just begin from the understanding that each event in history has fractured reverberations that ripple throughout the rest of time - it’s an embodiment of that reality. Beginning with the (real) 1947 Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting over the Cascade mountains - admittedly, why I picked up the book - the story shoots off just like Arnold’s flying pie tins into nine wildly different directions. A utopian commune gathers out west, seeking a vision from another world, and from there we check in each five years with another person whose life has been nudged one way or another by histories micro and marcro. One of things to really savor is the way each section bristles against the general ideas and shared memory of each era’s vibe. And Castleberry is so good at crafting sentences packed with delight and surprise that you'll barely notice until he end that he’s just swept you through a half century of America history in a dauntingly creative formal invention of a novel. Yowza.— Chris Lee
July 2020 Indie Next List
“This debut novel is a puzzle worth working out — don’t give up! Castleberry cleverly entwines nine characters over 50 years — a tribute to America as we struggle to ‘become enlightened’ while at the same time understand those who reject new ideas. This book will make you think, work through the characters, and come out with a complex but beautiful story describing the American movement since 1947. Assume nothing about this book — or even its title. It’s beautiful!”
— Kappy Kling, HearthFire Books, Evergreen, CO
In this extraordinary novel, Castleberry brilliantly hopscotches from person to person, from era to era, while somehow making all this fancy footwork look effortless and essential. - Jenny Offill, author of Department of Speculation and Weather
A luminous debut novel chronicling the eerily intersecting lives of a series of American dreamers whose unforeseen links reveal the divided heart of a haunted nation--and the battered grace that might lead to its salvation
June 26, 1947. Headlines across America report the sighting of nine pulsating lights flying over the Cascade Mountains at speeds surpassing any aircraft. In Chicago, inspired by the news, Oliver Danville, a failed actor now reduced to a mediocre pool hustler, hitchhikes west in a fever-dream quest for a possible sign from above that might illuminate his true calling. A chance encounter with Saul Penrod, an Idaho farmer, and his family sets in motion the birth of "the Seekers"--a collective of outcasts, interlopers, and idealists devoted to creating a society where divisions of race, ethnicity, and sexuality are a thing of the past. When Claudette Donen, a waitress on the lam from her suffocating family, encounters the group, she is compulsively drawn to Oliver's sister Eileen, but before she is able to join the enigmatic community, it has vanished.
Reunited across the country, the Seekers attempt to settle in the suburbs of Long Island. One night, their purpose suddenly revealed, a stranger emerges, and a horrific crime ensues. In the decades that follow, the perpetrators, survivors, and their children will be forced to face the consequences of what happened--a reckoning that will involve Charlie Ranagan, a traveling salesman; Max Felt, a dissolute late-1960s rock star; Alice Linwood, an increasingly paranoid radio host; Stanley West, a struggling African American poet; Marly Feldberg, a Greenwich Village painter; and Debbie Vasquez, a Connecticut teenager trapped by an avalanche of midnight legacies. Each will prove to be a piece of a puzzle that, when assembled, reveals a shocking truth about the clash between the optimism of those who seek inspiration from spacious skies, and the venom of others who relish the underworld--not only via conspiratorial maneuverings, but the literal unearthing of the dead. The result is one of the most exciting, and unforgettable, debut novels in recent memory, and the launch of a major career in American letters.