Book review: ‘Fill the Sky,’ by Katherine A. Sherbrooke
Special to the Daily
How far would you go to prolong your life? When all avenues allowed through modern medicine have been exhausted, would you open yourself to an untested spiritual journey in the hopes of a redeeming moment of healing that gifts you another day?
First-time author Katherine A. Sherbrooke tackles this challenging question in her new novel, “Fill the Sky,” which builds a compelling narrative around three colorful women who each view life’s journey in a different way.
A lovely tribute to the power of friendship, Sherbrooke’s story follows the cathartic journey of one woman who is grasping at any final chance to defeat the cancer that has her living on borrowed time. When a friend suggests a visit to an Ecuadorian shaman, the practical but desperate Ellie agrees, willing to try anything to prolong her life, especially as she has a secret that is eating at her soul.
Flanking Ellie on her spiritual journey are her two dearest friends, eager mystic Joline and pragmatic cynic Tess. The dynamics that are inevitable when three such diverse personalities share a deeply emotional experience are what provide the backbone of this tender novel. Their divergent life journeys intersect and overlap, but ultimately, the answers they seek are theirs alone.
Sherbrooke is very sensitive to this notion that profoundly deep and rich friendships can be built across seemingly opposing personality types. Though the women have led starkly different lives, with varying priorities, their love for each other dissolves those differences.
The added dynamic of a burdensome lie contributes to the tension that develops throughout the narrative, as the secret that is carried threatens to suffocate and smother all three of them, just at the moment when their hearts need to be open and accepting.
Though the element of unconventional spiritual practices lends the novel an offbeat tone, there is much that is relatable and approachable, and most of this, again, revolves around the familiar complexities of modern relationships. The two women try to support their sick friend through her spiritual journey, while also trying to engage with their own experiences with the shamans they encounter. Given the wide spectrum of character attributes that the three women exhibit, there is some manner or personal quality that is engaging for any reader.
Living with intention
The masterfully imparted interpersonal tale is all the more evocative against the mesmerizing backdrop of the mystical landscape of Ecuador. There is a running contradiction between the wonders of modern medicine and “big pharma” and the less tangible, but powerful, forces of traditional remedies. Each woman brings her own preconceptions, burdens and troubles along to the retreat, and Sherbrooke allows the slower pace of the rural, rooted customs to set in relief the importance of how the women need to learn to be present and giving for each other, even when their own not insignificant worries and concerns are heavy.
In our modern, fast-paced world, it is good to be reminded that true friendship and love demand commitment and a capacity for forgiveness and redemption are possible when one is really present to the needs of others. “Fill The Sky” is a heartwarming reminder that the beauty of life lies in the purity of spirit attainable only through living with intention.
José González will bring his quiet, reflective singer-songwriter music to Vilar Performing Arts Center on Saturday
Made famous with a cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats,” González plays on Saturday, Aug. 24 at 8 p.m.