The Cloud Atlas
The novel opens in contemporary Alaska. A seventy-six year old priest, Louis Belk, is to be recalled from his beloved Alaska by the bishop. For him, this is a major crisis, both physically and spiritually. As he comforts a dying shaman, who is both a friend and good-natured spiritual nemesis, he reveals the story of his secret mission in 1945.
Belk had joined the Army and was assigned to Alaska as a bomb disposal specialist. The Japanese had launched hydrogen-fill air balloons armed with explosives and sent them drifting into North America. While there, Belk develops relationships with his deranged, masochistic captain, and falls in love with Lily, an intriguing Yup’ik Eskimo woman. A sort of odd, tragicomic ménage-à-trois develops as the native culture struggles to maintain an identity while being subsumed by another.
Liam Callanan’s first novel is an absorbing tale about a little-known aspect of World War II. The spectacular Alaskan countryside provides a stunning background that infuses the novel; in a way, it becomes one of the main characters. This is an exciting first novel in every way.