In Nine Shiny Objects, an atmospheric novel-in-stories, debut author Brian Castleberry probes prejudice and xenophobia in the U.S. against the backdrop of the Cold War decades.
In 1947, washed-up stage actor Oliver Danville leaves Chicago and heads west, afire with inspiration after reading a news story about a UFO sighting of nine shiny objects over Mount Rainier. He believes the saucer-shaped objects meant to bring humanity a message about a better future. By chance or fate, he meets a farming couple in Idaho who share his vision. Castleberry reveals the rest of their fate through sideways glances from strangers whose lives intersect tangentially or catastrophically with the Seekers'. By 1952, Oliver and company have founded a utopian commune in northern California, which readers see through the eyes of Claudette, a waitress who falls in love with Oliver's sister Eileen. Each new chapter skips ahead five years and belongs to a different protagonist: a suburban woman in a stale marriage, a young Black poet coming of age in the 1960s, a songwriter pulled into the hedonistic world of a young rock star who lost something irreplaceable the night the commune met its end.
Despite the premise's roots in the bumper crop of UFO sightings during the Cold War, readers won't find extraterrestrials here. Instead, Castleberry examines the ways in which humans can become aliens in their own lives and homes. Dark turns, desperate times and deliberately loose ends abound in this ambitious, provocative web of lives. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads