Reviewed by Simran Sandhu
Mark Vanhoenacker loves to fly. If Skyfaring will convince you of anything, its that. His passion for the skies oozes from every space between the words he has carefully sewn together, creating this tapestry of aerial love. As Vanhoenacker takes us on one of his flights, he takes us on all of them: every journey, every longing glance and every lesson. He seamlessly transitions between the current flight and his journey to it with a mastery one can only admire. There is a sense of childlike wonder that Vanhoenacker maintains throughout his journey, something that was have arguably lost. In his debut novel, Vanhoenacker seeks to reinstall this wonder back into our systems – and succeeds.
The very first thing one notices about Skyfaring is how unlike other plane-based stories it is. Think about your experiences and preconceptions about flying and the keywords your subconscious will regrettably throw at you will probably resemble ‘9/11’, ‘MH370’, ‘discomfort’, ‘jetlag’, ‘dangerous’. Not once does Vanhoenacker refer to any disaster nor are there scenes of distress. He strips flying down to what it was before the world interrupted our own opinions and formed them for us. This is just the story of day to night on the horizon and yet it manages to be so much more.
His simple, elegant prose is often poetic. Where other writers run the risk of being lost in this poetic ‘fluff’ Vanhoenacker experienced hand simply embellishes an unforgettable journey with beautiful, everyday observations. There are times, for example, between the excitement of take off and the tension of landing when one could find oneself asking impatiently ‘Are we there yet?’. Thankfully, Vanhoenacker pacifies us with one of his poetic gems.
In short, Skyfaring is our sneaky-peek into the mind of a pilot whose head is always in the clouds. Its beautifully written, effective and Vanhoenacker somehow manages to teach us more about Boeing 747’s than we thought we ever wanted to know. A fantastic read.