Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Different Kind of Book for Me - What Lies Beyond The Stars, by Michael Goorjian

I just finished What Lies Beyond The Stars, a book that's pretty unlike most any other book I have read.  It's hard to explain.  The best I can tell you is that when I looked up the genre on Goodreads, it was equal numbers of Fiction and Spirituality.  No matter what you call it, it's a very compelling book.  One of our RBC members, Judith, gave it to me because the author, Michael Goorjian, is a Bay Area guy.  She thought I might be interested in having him come to one of our meetings.  After reading it, I was not only interested in having him as an RBC author, I went out and booked him for June 27th!  The only possible conflict is that he's also an actor (his credits include an Emmy, along with a bunch of other TV and movie roles).  He doesn't expect to take any acting jobs over the summer so that he can concentrate on his writing.  But if he gets an offer that he can't refuse, it could create a conflict.  Well, guess what?  We can definitely live with that.

On to the book.  Here is the back cover blurb:

Words that ring painfully true for Adam Sheppard, a San Francisco programmer who has spent the vast majority of his 30-something years lost in the dim glow of a computer screen. On the verge of a psychotic break, Adam begins to have a recurring dream of his early childhood and the hauntingly rustic town of Mendocino, California, where he grew up. Convinced he has left something behind there, something vital to his present sanity, Adam walks away from his current life to figure out what that is.
One evening, out on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Adam has a chance encounter with a mysterious woman, only to later realize that she may be a long forgotten childhood friend.  The coincidence of their reunion only deepens as Adam discovers that the woman has also returned to Mendocino due to a recurring dream, eerily similar to his own.
Lost soulmates drawn together through time and space, or perhaps their meeting is only the beginning of a much deeper mystery.  As Adam awakens to the possibility that his life could be destined for more than a bleak virtual wasteland, he soon finds himself a crucial pawn in a game that pits forces intent on enslaving the human spirit against those few quixotic souls who still search for meaning, beauty, and magic in the world.

Pretty intriguing storyline, don't you think?  But here's the thing.  It's also very well-written.  And I particularly liked how he referred to everyday situations that we can all relate to.  Take for example this passage:

"Adam gave his head an Etch-A-Sketch shake, attempting to wipe away the lingering bit of code."

Is there anybody who can't see themselves as a child (or even as an adult!) shaking an Etch-A-Sketch over their heads?  I think not.

Or this, on wearing earbuds to avoid contact with people on the streets:

"It was surprisingly useful, especially in San Francisco, where one easily could be accosted by a panhandler, a religious fanatic, and an environmentalist all on the same corner."

If you've been to San Francisco (or any big city, for that matter), I know that right now you are nodding your head.

Or, finally, this, about a restaurant where he had been celebrating his birthday the past 5 years:

"It was convenient and quasi-fancy, kid friendly while also being a hit with the blue-haired set."

We've all noticed this too (I'll be noticing it more as I rapidly approach the age of blue-hairs!).

Michael describes the process of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.  And I daresay it's an explanation that few of us know.  He also gives a great description of what science is.  I guarantee that it will make you feel very small and just a tad insignificant.  But what grabbed me throughout the book was due to the 1st 5+ pages.  When the book opens, we find Adam at Presidio House, a "long-term inpatient rehab facility."  And he doesn't talk!  The next chapter starts with "Three years earlier..."  In a book that is clearly not a mystery/suspense/thriller, I sure wanted to know what happened to Adam that led him to Presidio House.  That was a lot of suspense for me.

What Lies Beyond The Stars is not only a good debut novel, it's just flat-out a good novel, period.  Michael, you done good.


  1. Sounds interesting. Thanks for the review. I loved him on Party of Five as Justin and was so mad when Julia broke up with him. He was in Newsies and has a great voice. Is that a recent pic? If so, the years have been good to him. :)

    1. You cultural diva you!
      I had never heard of him. I was a big fan of Party of Five. But I don't remember anybody except the 3 siblings. He does appear to be a pretty handsome guy. That should increase the turnout from our distaff members!

  2. That does sound like a good one - thought provoking with a good story. I'm not familiar with the author either but how exciting that he's already agreed to come to your book club!

    1. It is exciting. And I don't take it for granted that authors want to carve out time from their busy schedules to meet with their readers. Even though oftentimes it means that they have to brave commuter traffic to get to the bookstore.

  3. Now I want to go back and re-watch Newsies to remind myself who he played (thanks to Melissa). This does sound interesting, and I like the passages you shared with us. That's exciting that you were able to schedule the author to come!

    1. I need to do that with Party of Five. I was a big fan of that show.