I am absolutely surprised by how much I liked this debut novel. Surprised because We Own the Sky is about a child who dies, and whose father drowns his sorrows in alcohol. Not my usual cup of tea, but I literally could not put this book down, can’t stop thinking about it, and would be glad to read it again.
The setting is contemporary London, and the main characters are Rob Coates, his wife Anna, and their son Jack. Rob is a talented computer programmer who has sold his business to a large company, and he no longer has to work very much. He met his wife Anna, an accountant, when they were at Cambridge together. After a great deal of difficulty, they have a son, Jack, who is the light of their lives. When Jack is just five years old, he begins having health problems, and tragically he is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Surgery only offers a temporary respite to his symptoms, and when problems return, Jack and Anna are told that there is nothing else that can be done for Jack.
Rob turns to an on line support forum called “Hope’s Place” to learn more from other families in similar situations. On the site, parents gather to talk about their children’s illnesses and their frustration at ineffective treatments. Through Hope’s Place, Rob reads about a controversial clinic in Prague that might offer a cure. Anna, the rational, data driven accountant, is dead set against anything that has not been proven, researched, and documented.
The title of the book, We Own the Sky, comes from a website that Rob created. On the site, he posts stunning panoramic photographs he has taken of places that he and Jack visited together. It becomes a form of therapy for him, and although it’s easy to dislike Rob because he is coping with grief by numbing himself with vodka, he ultimately becomes a sympathetic character.
Allnutt is from the U.K., but he’s lived and worked in Prague since 1998. Currently in remission, he wrote We Own the Sky when he himself was having chemotherapy. I recommend his book highly, and I can’t wait to discuss it with book clubs.