The Planets by Jennifer Finney Boylan

The Planets by Jennifer Finney BoylanThe Planets by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Published by Vintage on March 31, 1992
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 265
Source: I purchased a copy of this book.
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A Kurt Vonnegut for the '90s, an earthbound Douglas Adams. James Boylan's debut novel is wildly inventive, original, and deeply, outrageously funny. When lovesick Edith Schmertz takes an ill-fated leap out of an airplane on Easter Sunday, she sets in motion an inexorable chain of events, sending many human orbits spinning wildly out of control.



The Planets is a fictional story set in a real almost-ghost town: Centralia, Pennsylvania, where an underground mine fire has been burning since 1962. (Yep, it’s still burning today!)

I loved these kooky, multi-faceted characters and the sticky situations they ended up in. I openly laughed so many times. “Oh noooooooo!” kind of laughs. But these characters are interesting and nuanced, too. They’re thoughtful and reflective, and have a whole lot of heart.

“One day, quite suddenly, she had seen, with terrifying clarity, the magnitude of the world’s falseness.”

There’s something about the cadence of Boylan’s writing—and this is the case for everything of hers I’ve read: There’s musicality to her phrases. The way I hear it in my mind is pleasing and comforting, kind of like listening to Garrison Keillor’s storytelling.

I believe the book is out of print, but you can find used copies online pretty easily (I found mine on Amazon). The Planets is a book to reach for when you simply want a good story.

  • I’ve never even heard of this author but this sounds perfect for right now. Plus, an underground fire burning for decades?! I’m in!

    • Look under “Jennifer Finney Boylan” and she’s definitely an author everyone should read, especially her nonfiction!