The gifted Keith Corcoran has spent his life working towards the dream of becoming an astronaut. With a skill for mathematics, many years of dedicated training, and the support of a loving family, Keith at last succeeds. His life’s effort culminates in a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station. Tragically, in the middle of his tour, his teenage daughter is involved in a car accident; and yet, Keith’s professionalism will not allow him to cut the mission short. When he does return to earth, he finds his family broken, his house empty, and himself adrift.
Forced to take a leave from work and struggling to cope with his grief, Keith mechanically prepares his house for sale. Almost immediately, he meets Jennifer, an attractive neighbour, and they embark on a confusing, misguided affair. In the sterility of suburban America, Keith sinks more deeply into a consuming depression. It’s only when he befriends Peter, an oddball Ukrainian immigrant with a passion for stargazing, that Keith has an opportunity transcend the loss that’s overtaken his life.
The Infinite Tides, Christian Kiefer’s debut novel, is beautifully written. The book is full of lyrical passages, poetic descriptions of space, time, and mathematics, and moving evocations of a grieving man’s inner life. But this is exactly the novel’s weakness. The narrative is often interrupted by these literary flights. More attention to developing the characters and deepening the interactions between them would have served Kiefer better. Still, The Infinite Tides is a worthy first effort, delicate, moving, and oddly tender.
Review first published in The Courier-Mail in January 2013.