Title: Things Behind the Sun
Author: David W. Berner
Genre: Literary/General Fiction
"Beautifully and patiently rendered, Things Behind the Sun is a meditative and empathic exploration of fate, family, and finding one's way. David W. Berner has created a vast emotional landscape as vibrant and expansive as its Pacific Northwest backdrop." --Claire Lombardo, author of the New York Times bestselling novel, The Most Fun We Ever Had
Martin Gregory believes he has one last shot at emotionally connecting with the son he adopted seventeen years ago from the only woman he ever loved. A long road trip could be the answer. But the boy has other ideas as the two of them navigate the past and contemplate the future during a summer journey through the American West. The trip uncovers long-held secrets—both Martin's and his son's—and becomes an exploration of whether the deep emotions that brought them together in the first place are more important than what could tear them apart. Things Behind the Sun is an inspired coming-of-age story about the powerful, complicated yet enduring bond between fathers and sons.
The odometer on the old Subaru had been stuck on 93,453 miles for as long as Martin could remember. He was unable to recall when it might have been that the digits stopped changing or where he was when he had noticed it for the first time. The car was old but ran well, and besides, Martin had come to measure his life along the coast in time rather than in distance. Still, the start of the summer road trip was just a few days away, and along with checking the tread on the tires and examining the pinging noise the car had been making whenever it was put in reverse, it seemed the right time to have someone look at the odometer, and maybe a good time to begin again to count the miles.
“Martin gave you the list of what it needs, right?” Chase asked as he stepped from the car and met Jordan at the shop’s garage entrance.
“Yeah, I have it on the worksheet,” Jordan said.
“Did you see the mileage counter? It’s screwed up.”
“I’ll take a look.”
“Martin wants to get going this Friday morning.”
“Three days,” Jordan said, thinking for a second. “Okay. As long as we don’t need any hard-to-get parts or a new odometer. Computer stuff can be tricky. If it’s not something major, I can get it rolling again right from where it stopped.”
Dirksen’s Auto Repair in Coos Bay had always been there, it seemed. Generations had run the place. Jordan took over from his father, the third Dirksen to keep the shop going. Jordan had worked there since high school—rotating tires, changing windshield wipers, and phoning customers, alerting them that their cars were ready. When computers became a big part of how automobiles worked, Jordan’s dad stopped keeping up with the new technology and considered selling. But Jordan couldn’t imagine it. He took classes on modern auto repair at the community college and helped keep the place viable through the final years of his father’s life. Throat cancer from the cigarettes, doctors said. Jordan was just 25 years old. Shortly after taking over, he hired Chase, who had just turned 16 and would come in a few days a week after school and on an occasional Saturday.
“Doesn’t matter to me if we don’t start on time,” Chase said, removing a small backpack from the car’s rear seat.
“Not too excited?” Jordan asked.
Chase shrugged and handed Jordan the keys. “Wasn’t my idea. And you know Martin.”
Just saying the words—road trip—breathed life into Martin. Trips when he was a boy with his parents from Chicago to Michigan carried good memories—stretches of highway, changing scenery, falling asleep in the backseat with the rear window cracked open. And as a teenager, there was that long spring break trip to Florida—clothes tossed around the car, empty water bottles and Lays potato chip bags on the floors, smoking cigarettes, and talking and talking about nothing and everything. And in England, a few weeks after he first arrived to teach at The Academy, there was that Sunday drive from Banbury through The Cotswolds to Swansea, the three-hour trip that took six because it deserved every extra minute. Road trips for Martin had always meant slowing down, paying attention to your own thoughts, being alone in the big world, and running away without truly running away.
“He says he wants to get to know me again,” Chase continued. “Really? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
“Easy, now. It could be fun, you know,” Jordan said. “Dads love this kind of stuff.”
Martin hoped he might discover something lost out on the road, a way to face what seemed to have been only a few steps behind him for such a long time. But it was different for Chase.
What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD. I simply wanted to go on a long road trip for the great American experience.
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
It’s a short novel, in the spirit length of THE GREAT GATSBY, and other memorable short novels. But it’s also an epic trip, an American journey both physically and emotionally for a father and his son.
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Runs August 1 – 31.
Drawing will be held on September 1.
David W. Berner is a memoirist, essayist, fiction writer, and journalist. His memoirs reflect on our collective relationships and how those experiences link us to the world we share. David's stories are about fathers and sons, the redemptive power of road trips, travel, music, and the sage-like connections we share with pets.
David was born in Pittsburgh, PA and now lives in the Chicago area. Along with his writing credentials, David has had a distinguished career as a broadcast journalist, reporting for the CBS Radio Network, WBBM Radio Chicago, and public radio outlets throughout America.
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