“I always dreamed of the stars. Getting as high as I could so I could reach out and touch them. I didn’t realize, not until I’d seen the Earth from orbit, that I’d been dreaming the wrong dreams. Everything that matters, everything that’s important, is right down here.” ― Jeremy Pack, To Touch the Stars
So. Damn. Good. I didn’t used to write many reviews before I started here at The Novel Approach. Only when a book touched me deeply would I take the time to do so. This is one of the first books I ever reviewed. I’ll polish it up to make it seem all “professional” but remember, I wrote this review because I just loved this book so much that I had to tell other people about it. Jeremy Pack and Jason Keith were married a few weeks ago in Washington. I sincerely wish them all the happiness Tait and Nick weren’t able to enjoy.
This is not a “gay” book. It is a novel written about gay characters. It could just as easily have been written about a rich/poor heterosexual couple, or white/black, or catholic/Jewish, or any other two groups of people that bigots think don’t belong together. If you want sex, this book is not for you. To Touch the Stars is a love story for the ages. This book is incredibly well-written. It was a vocabulary lesson (which I love!), in that Jeremy Pack uses words not often heard in everyday conversation. The dictionary feature on my Kindle Fire got a good work out. I love that it was a challenging read; verbally, intellectually and emotionally. Not a light read at all, but it will give back much more than it takes out of you. And it will leave you feeling drained at times. To Touch the Stars didn’t just “touch me” or “break my heart” or “pull at my emotions”. It completely obliterated me emotionally. I had to try to find all the little pieces of me to put myself back together. I think I may still be missing a few…
In 1966, Nicholas Sullivan becomes an astronaut. He wants nothing more than To Touch The Stars. The Apollo program is going strong and Nick’s chances of attaining his dream are good. Tait Williams is a reporter bent on covering the Vietnam War. Instead he is assigned the unimaginable. To be the public relations liaison to NASA and it’s golden boy, Nick Sullivan. Tait’s chances of covering the war seem to be dead-on-arrival.
Despite the circumstances of their meeting, over the next twenty years Nick and Tait find themselves coming together again and again. Then they are repeatedly pulled back apart. A deep and abiding love develops between the two men in a time in the history of gay rights when it wasn’t even a consideration to be openly gay. Especially as an astronaut. Especially in a war zone. As much as they want to be together, their career desires and societal dictates prevent it.
The main characters were so well-developed, I actually felt like I was growing up with them. Jeremy Pack made them fly off the page and into my brain and heart and bloodstream. There’s a scene in the book where Nick is bailing out of a crashing helicopter and he shapes his body, as much as he is able, into a missile to propel himself as far away from the copter as possible. That is how I picture Tait and Nick coming out of my Kindle and into me.
The supporting characters were crafted so sublimely that it is clear the main characters would never have become who they were without their support (sometimes not so supportive, but you know what I mean). Ok, maybe influence would be a better word choice than support. Maybe from now on we should refer to supporting characters as influencing characters?
I feel like I want to go find the book that Tait was writing about his time in Cambodia to read how he felt while there. I want to know exactly what he was going through and what happened to him in the two months between the events he experienced there. And what happened while Tait & Alex were in Africa? I know it’s a fictional character who was not really writing an autobiographical book, but still! Nick’s mom’s book? I want to read it! She’s responsible for the title, after all.
And Adam. Can I just say that I wish we had met him sooner? Or maybe his story needs to be told on its own? Or maybe he is just what he is, a brief moment of clarity to show us how to grab the joy while we can. He just had so much damn heart and insight. The fact that such a minor player is so interesting is an indication of the depth of layers Jeremy Pack wrote for his characters. THIS is the kind of book Hollywood should be shopping to make into a movie, not that erotica crap that shall not be named 50 times.
Finally, the cherry on top, a freaking 1980’s “Days of Our Lives” reference! So cool. And so very highly, bloody, extremely, profoundly and tremendously recommended.