I love the way that sounds. Theater of the Stars. Say it out loud and see if you agree. If I tell you that I'm not talking about the Kodak Theater in which the Hollywood stars will gather on February 27 for the Academy Awards but the title of a friend's book in which the stars are of the celestial variety, perhaps the words will have a far grander ring to your ears. The subtitle is A Novel of Physics and Memory. With that subtitle there can be no question that we have our sights light years away from Hollywood Boulevard (although I'm sure the author would entertain a future movie deal from this book, but that is confusing the issue).
The author of whom I speak is N. M. Kelby. She and I go way back, having gone to high school together, belonging to the same service club, and owning identical green sweaters with gold trim (although this was not a planned wardrobe strategy). That, of course, was many years ago, but we do share something new in common now: book angst. I wrote several weeks ago about my state of book angst and I've now learned that her book's future is also tenuous. Let me tell you, my friend is far less deserving of book angst and far more deserving of success than I am as she is already a well-established author having published the beautiful In the Company of Angels a few years prior and both books are dense with story, ideas, and luscious language.
Book reviewer Colleen Mondor agrees that Kelby deserves success and the book, attention. In her review, "Unjustly Forgotten", Mondor writes about reading the book straight through in one sitting and her subsequent correspondence with Kelby,
"This has happened to me before, but not in a long long time. I was sufficiently impressed with the way Kelby mixed such disparate plot elements as WWII France, Morocco, Los Alamos, the Curie family, Enrico Fermi, M-Theory, astronomy and love to look her up on the internet and send along the sort of complimentary note that all good writers deserve. She responded with a thoughtful note of her own and a correspondence ensued where I asked many questions and she kindly gave deeply heartfelt answers. I was most curious about how a book of this nature is created, not from the nuts and bolts of writing habits but rather the creative leaps and jumps that carry it from one dramatic turn to the next....
In trying to understand her world, to find the truth that she demands, Kelby has followed a personal course of study in those subjects that always interested her. She sought to understand physics, what she terms “a rather dreamy science” out of her desire to know that “mysterious language” and thus discovered the M-Theory, “the Mother of all Theory” which plays such an important part in Theater. To find answers she obtained grants and went to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Boston and also gained contacts with NASA. She “tracked down” science writer Marcia Bartusiak author of "Through a Universe Darkly" and someone who has asked her own questions about the composition of the universe and existence of "dark matter." It has always been a calculated journey for Nicole, a trip to learn more about both the past and the future. That same path is walked by the fictional Lucienne as she finds her research into the nature of black holes upended by the sudden revelation of Helene’s darker mysteries, puzzles that seem far greater than the universe could ever construct.
'Despite all the science,' writes Nicole, 'this book is about something more primal… perhaps something immeasurable by numbers and logic… it is a book about that wild and unwieldy thing we call love… it is a book about the landscape of the heart.'"
Read the whole review here. Then, when it's dark, go outside and look up at the stars. Then, come back in and read Theater of the Stars.