Review: A Million Heavens by John Brandon

Title: A Million Heavens
Author: John Brandon
Publisher: McSweeney’s
Released: July 2012
Source: publisher (giveaway)

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

On the top floor of a small hospital, an unlikely piano prodigy lies in a coma, attended to by his gruff, helpless father. Outside the clinic, a motley vigil assembles beneath a reluctant New Mexico winter—strangers in search of answers, a brush with the mystical, or just an escape. To some the boy is a novelty, to others a religion. Just beyond this ragtag circle roams a disconsolate wolf on his nightly rounds, protecting and threatening, learning too much. And above them all, a would-be angel sits captive in a holding cell of the afterlife, finishing the work he began on earth, writing the songs that could free him. This unlikely assortment—a small-town mayor, a vengeful guitarist, all the unseen desert lives—unites to weave a persistently hopeful story of improbable communion.

It took me a while to get into A Million Heavens. It constantly shifts perspectives, always remaining in the third person. Some characters are never referred to directly by name, even after we learn their names. The narrative will simply read, “the gas station owner” or “the music teacher” over and over. Once I got to know the characters and could keep them straight, I settled into the style and hardly wanted to put the book down.

The book itself is beautifully made. A glorious cover with shiny silver and gold against a grey and black background. The pages are nice and heavy; sometimes I thought I was turning two pages at once. This book felt good in my hands. This coming from someone who prefers e-books!

There’s a surrealism in A Million Heavens that is conveyed through its more tangible situations. I couldn’t determine where things were headed, but toward the end I started to make vague connections, though they were difficult to hold on to. As things became more and more clear, I still wasn’t sure how it would finish up. I appreciate a story that keeps me wondering like that.

I liked seeing each character’s own personal journey unfold. This is a book I could see myself reading again and again, just to discover what new perceptions and details I’d find.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher after winning a giveaway on the BookSnob blog. There was no obligation to read or review the book; this is my honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.