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Keith Corcoran has spent his entire life preparing to be an astronaut. At the moment of his greatness, finally aboard the International Space Station, hundreds of miles above the earth’s swirling blue surface, he receives word that his sixteen-year-old daughter has died in a car accident, and that his wife has left him. Returning to earth, and to his now empty suburban hom Keith Corcoran has spent his entire life preparing to be an astronaut. At the moment of his greatness, finally aboard the International Space Station, hundreds of miles above the earth’s swirling blue surface, he receives word that his sixteen-year-old daughter has died in a car accident, and that his wife has left him. Returning to earth, and to his now empty suburban home, he is alone with the ghosts, the memories and feelings he can barely acknowledge, let alone process. He is a mathematical genius, a brilliant engineer, a famous astronaut, but nothing in his life has readied him for this. With its endless interlocking culs-de-sac, big box stores, and vast parking lots, contemporary suburbia is not a promising place to recover from such trauma. But healing begins through new relationships, never Keith’s strength, first as a torrid affair with one neighbor, and then as an unlikely friendship with another, a Ukrainian immigrant who every evening lugs his battered telescope to the weed-choked vacant lot at the end of the street. Gazing up at the heavens together, drinking beer and smoking pot, the two men share their vastly different experiences and slowly reveal themselves to each other, until Keith can begin to confront his loss and begin to forgive himself for decades of only half-living. The Infinite Tides is a deeply moving, tragicomic, and ultimately redemptive story of love, loss, and resilience. It is also an indelible and nuanced portrait of modern American life that renders both our strengths and weaknesses with great and tender beauty.


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Keith Corcoran has spent his entire life preparing to be an astronaut. At the moment of his greatness, finally aboard the International Space Station, hundreds of miles above the earth’s swirling blue surface, he receives word that his sixteen-year-old daughter has died in a car accident, and that his wife has left him. Returning to earth, and to his now empty suburban hom Keith Corcoran has spent his entire life preparing to be an astronaut. At the moment of his greatness, finally aboard the International Space Station, hundreds of miles above the earth’s swirling blue surface, he receives word that his sixteen-year-old daughter has died in a car accident, and that his wife has left him. Returning to earth, and to his now empty suburban home, he is alone with the ghosts, the memories and feelings he can barely acknowledge, let alone process. He is a mathematical genius, a brilliant engineer, a famous astronaut, but nothing in his life has readied him for this. With its endless interlocking culs-de-sac, big box stores, and vast parking lots, contemporary suburbia is not a promising place to recover from such trauma. But healing begins through new relationships, never Keith’s strength, first as a torrid affair with one neighbor, and then as an unlikely friendship with another, a Ukrainian immigrant who every evening lugs his battered telescope to the weed-choked vacant lot at the end of the street. Gazing up at the heavens together, drinking beer and smoking pot, the two men share their vastly different experiences and slowly reveal themselves to each other, until Keith can begin to confront his loss and begin to forgive himself for decades of only half-living. The Infinite Tides is a deeply moving, tragicomic, and ultimately redemptive story of love, loss, and resilience. It is also an indelible and nuanced portrait of modern American life that renders both our strengths and weaknesses with great and tender beauty.

30 review for The Infinite Tides

  1. 5 out of 5

    Christian Kiefer

    I wrote it, so of course I feel obligated to give it 5 stars. But really you should read it and give it your own stars. However many you want. But five would be best.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    This might be the best first novel I have ever read. I mean even counting the famous ones by dead people. The writing is rich and lyrical. The emotions complex. The math theory is super smart and compelling, without detracting from the emotional punch Astronaut Keith Corcoran's story packs. There are so may books these days where I think, this would have been such a good book if it had only been 100 pages shorter, but I could have read 400 more pages about these characters and in this voice. Bra This might be the best first novel I have ever read. I mean even counting the famous ones by dead people. The writing is rich and lyrical. The emotions complex. The math theory is super smart and compelling, without detracting from the emotional punch Astronaut Keith Corcoran's story packs. There are so may books these days where I think, this would have been such a good book if it had only been 100 pages shorter, but I could have read 400 more pages about these characters and in this voice. Bravo for Christian Kiefer

  3. 5 out of 5

    Octavio Solis

    An incredible novel by a new writer who has just made a strong literary debut. I found this story utterly compelling, truly inventive and deeply layered with the most profound human insights. The craftsmanship, which counts for quite a bit with me, was really tight and nuanced. And yet it was almost invisible, by which I mean I was never distracted by the good writing. As I was captivated early on my career by Chaos Theory and the science of space exploration, I have sought out the works that re An incredible novel by a new writer who has just made a strong literary debut. I found this story utterly compelling, truly inventive and deeply layered with the most profound human insights. The craftsmanship, which counts for quite a bit with me, was really tight and nuanced. And yet it was almost invisible, by which I mean I was never distracted by the good writing. As I was captivated early on my career by Chaos Theory and the science of space exploration, I have sought out the works that reflect with great breadth and depth on how these complex mathematical principles can apply to actual lived experience, and this work demonstrated that to me so beautifully. But it's the inner space of the human soul that Kiefer is really interested in. He plumbs the depths of a man in great despair, dealing with loss and confusion, who falls into his own black hole and can't find his way back out. It's a rich story that will be utterly familiar to contemporary readers and yet will take them on a new fresh journey in the human condition. I loved this.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amy Warrick

    This book is infinite, too. Don't expect big moments. Or action. Or likeable characters. Well-written. Melancholy. Not for me. This book is infinite, too. Don't expect big moments. Or action. Or likeable characters. Well-written. Melancholy. Not for me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alana

    Stunning in its articulation of the vagaries of existence, the importance of living in the present, and the profound nature of human connection.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John Luiz

    In this novel, Kiefer has created a moving story about a mathematical genius, Keith Corcoran, who manages to fulfill his life mission of being an astronaut. The only problem is that when his teenaged daughter dies in a car accident while he's on an international space station, and his wife leaves him, he is left to deal with the consequences of the isolation he always sought out. Keith is a fascinating character. He feels more connected to numbers - which he sees in colors and treats as if they In this novel, Kiefer has created a moving story about a mathematical genius, Keith Corcoran, who manages to fulfill his life mission of being an astronaut. The only problem is that when his teenaged daughter dies in a car accident while he's on an international space station, and his wife leaves him, he is left to deal with the consequences of the isolation he always sought out. Keith is a fascinating character. He feels more connected to numbers - which he sees in colors and treats as if they have their own corporeal existence - than he does to people. He discovered early on that his daughter shares his gift, but when she becomes more interested in a regular life - dating boys and participating in cheerleading - he's disappointed with her. After her death, he has to come back to earth and deal with his regret that his monomaniacal pursuit of his career goals took him away from his family for so many long stretches that he lost all connection to them . The house he moves back into - completely emptied of all furnishings when his wife left him with the request that he sell it - becomes a metaphor for just how empty and hollowed out his life has become. As sad as all this sounds, it's not a depressing book to read because Kiefer does a good job of getting inside Keith's head and showing how he perceives the world. Be prepared when you read this, however, that there is a lot of lyrical writing, with very abstract language, that conveys Keith's mode of thinking. The first 40 pages alone are full of that language - as we get long descriptions of the best moment of Keith life's - when he's on a spacewalk outside the space station, installing a robotic arm that he, as an engineer, designed. It's moving and poetic - but it also takes a long while to get the main gist of the story - dealing with the aftermath of his daughter's death. While I liked the novel very much, that was my one quibble with it - that it went down some tangential paths that aren't as compelling as the ones that flesh out the main premise of the book. I don't think it's fair to quarrel with how a writer chooses to fill out a story (but of course I will anyway) but in this case I was disappointed that he didn't deliver more background details about Keith's relationship with his daughter and his wife, and what his feelings might have been while he was locked up in the space station, unable to return to earth, until 3 months after his daughter died. We get some of that, and when we do, they are the most powerful sections of the book - particularly the flashbacks of Keith discovering, when his daughter is very young, that she has inherited his mathematical genius and then later, during her teenaged years, when he tells her how disappointed he is that she close to lead the normal life of a teenager and not do more with her gift. With his wife, there is just a brief scene about how they met and then just brief and shrill phone conversations. What we get a instead are a few, albeit very hot and sexy, scenes from the affair he starts with the neigbhor, and then many scenes about the friendship he strucks up with a Ukrainian immigrant he meets at a Starbucks who used to work at a Russian astronomical observatory, but who since coming to America has been underemployed as a stockboy at a Target. Ultimately, that friendship becomes an important part of the story but for the early scenes when he keeps running into the Ukranian at a Starbucks and then rescues him when after he's passed out drunk there to the many scenes when they sit in an empty lot next to the astronauts' house watching the stars, it feels like a good chunk of the novel isn't living up to the premise the author set up. While finding some of these sections a little slow and tedious, I couldn't help but compare it in my mind to another tale about the loss of a child told from the father's perspective that I read this summer. In the novel You Came Back by Christopher Coake, we start with a father who has just started to remake his life seven years after his son died, falling down stairs at home -- an event that led to the dissolution of his marriage. Just when he becomes engaged to the new woman in his life, a woman who bought his old house seeks him out to tell him his son's ghost in in the house, calling out to him. If you played the Stephen King game (suggested in his book on writing) of "What if" a character had to deal with this scenario, Coake delivers masterfully on every aspect you'd expect a man to have to deal with in that situation -- disbelief, anger, then a desperate wish to believe it's true, and then a a reconnection to his ex-wife when she hears the news. In this novel about Keith's loss, I wanted to know so much more about his daughter, his relationship with his wife, and the three months he spent stuck up in the space station after she died, because conditions wouldn't let him return any sooner. By the end of the novel, though, the relationship with the Ukranian that didn't initially seem as consequential or relevant as any of those matters does play an important role in Keith's "re-entry" into life on earth. And admittedly, many of the details and story elements Kiefer choose to include fit with a man who lived so much in his head and had trouble connecting with people. Coming back to earth, Keith is forced to forge relationships -- he wants to do nothing but get back to work and lose himself into his career responsibilities, but NASA won't let him until it's obvious he's dealt with his grief and its main physical manifestation, severe migraines. The relationship with his Ukranian friend proves very important and in the last quarter of the book, their connection plays out in interesting ways. In the end, while I may not have been riveted to every single page, I still enjoyed the entire experience because the novel tells a powerful story about how one man deals with tragedy and begins to rebuild his life from the ashes of it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bonny

    I began reading The Infinite Tides almost immediately after I finished Kiefer's 5-star book, The Animals. I think I was expecting (and hoping for) more of the same – exciting plot, a main character I loved, written almost like poetry. The author himself had warned me that “My first book is a much different animal. It’s meant to have almost zero velocity (like a Henry James novel) and spins in one place (purposefully, I mean), so you may have to get into it in a different way.” Of course, he was I began reading The Infinite Tides almost immediately after I finished Kiefer's 5-star book, The Animals. I think I was expecting (and hoping for) more of the same – exciting plot, a main character I loved, written almost like poetry. The author himself had warned me that “My first book is a much different animal. It’s meant to have almost zero velocity (like a Henry James novel) and spins in one place (purposefully, I mean), so you may have to get into it in a different way.” Of course, he was completely right, and at one point I had to put the book down for a few days. I ended up re-starting The Infinite Tides from the beginning, just reading, without any expectations, and let Kiefer's writing once again work its magic on me. This book is a much different animal, and the fact that Kiefer is capable of writing such completely different books, each excellent in their own way, is part of why this is another 5-star read. I won't recount the plot, but it is imaginative, original, and horrifying. The main character, astronaut Keith Corcoran, is not a completely likeable guy, but how he deals with (or doesn't deal with) the bleak, grief-filled circumstances of his life form the basis of his this book. Several characters question Keith's devotion and single-mindedness in becoming an astronaut, and note that that path has ill-prepared him for life after he has reached this pinnacle. He has this truly interesting, synesthesia-like relationship with numbers, and relates to them much better than to people. I appreciated the juxtaposition of how math has answers and logic but human nature is often completely without logic or answers. Keith does end up in an interesting friendship with Peter, a Ukrainian astronomer who now works at Target, and it is Peter's wife Luda who provides a wonderful end to this book. Just as Kiefer chose the perfect setting for The Animals, he did the same for The Infinite Tides. The empty ranch house that Keith returns to, on one of many culs-de-sac in suburbia, surrounded by big box stores and Starbucks, helps the reader understand and picture how grim and meaningless things are for Keith. There is something that happens in/to the house that was perfect for Keith's story, literally and metaphorically, but it feels like a spoiler so I won't give it away. Read The Infinite Tides and find out for yourself. I'm looking forward to reading Kiefer's next novel, knowing it will most likely be something completely different, but perfectly wonderful.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bessie James

    There are some very great things about this book, some very sad things but it is certainly worth reading. I have no experience with many of the central themes here -- a taciturn, driven main character, the loss of a child, the world of higher mathematics, and space travel. It's to Christian Kiefer's credit that he can weave these elements into a book that hooked me for it's nearly 400 pages. His descriptions of the lifelessness in the cul-de-sacs of suburbia are reflected in relentlessly stark p There are some very great things about this book, some very sad things but it is certainly worth reading. I have no experience with many of the central themes here -- a taciturn, driven main character, the loss of a child, the world of higher mathematics, and space travel. It's to Christian Kiefer's credit that he can weave these elements into a book that hooked me for it's nearly 400 pages. His descriptions of the lifelessness in the cul-de-sacs of suburbia are reflected in relentlessly stark prose while describing the interior life of the protagonist (or agonist), astronaut Keith Corcoran. For that achievement alone, this is some damn superb writing. Corcoran's relationship with a lively Ukranian man and his family in the cul-de-sac provides an interesting contrast to the vapid life around them -- you just gotta love a couple of guys that spend their nights gazing at stars on an abandoned couch in an empty lot while smoking weed and knocking back beers. I have a feeling this author is definitely one to watch -- he's a former student of the great T.C. Boyle and, even though he doesn't imitate him, he has the same ability Boyle has to create characters that jump into your life while you are involved in reading their stories. I'd give it five stars but I felt a little hit over the head with all the math references. Sorry, Kiefer, but I'm not going to look up "fractals" and "alephs", etc. when I'm trying to find out what happens to characters you've made me care about.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Corinne

    I managed to snag a galley of this book as part of my research for an article I'm writing about Sacramento area authors. I love that part of my job, I must admit. I don't even know where to begin to sing The Infinite Tide's praises. Kiefer does a fantastic job bringing you into astronaut Keith Corcoran's world, a world in which he is lost and longing to be back in space, where things made more sense. The characters are complex and imperfect, the narrative is moving. He obviously immersed himself I managed to snag a galley of this book as part of my research for an article I'm writing about Sacramento area authors. I love that part of my job, I must admit. I don't even know where to begin to sing The Infinite Tide's praises. Kiefer does a fantastic job bringing you into astronaut Keith Corcoran's world, a world in which he is lost and longing to be back in space, where things made more sense. The characters are complex and imperfect, the narrative is moving. He obviously immersed himself in astrophysics and mathematics because those parts of the book where Corcoran muses about his life's work are dense with detail yet they aren't intimidating to a reader like me, who struggles to balance her checkbook. A beautifully written book. I predict all the cool kids will be reading it this summer when it comes out.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Miranda

    I read for a living. I am lucky enough to read a lot of good books that way (and, okay, many that are, well, not so good). This was an especially good year, but even so The Infinite Tides was neck and neck with David Vann's new novel for best book I got paid to read in the last two or three years. And it has the distinct advantage of not being excruciating from beginning to end (this is not at all a criticism of Vann, Dirt is a powerful book and worth the agony, but whatever reviewer said Vann m I read for a living. I am lucky enough to read a lot of good books that way (and, okay, many that are, well, not so good). This was an especially good year, but even so The Infinite Tides was neck and neck with David Vann's new novel for best book I got paid to read in the last two or three years. And it has the distinct advantage of not being excruciating from beginning to end (this is not at all a criticism of Vann, Dirt is a powerful book and worth the agony, but whatever reviewer said Vann makes The Road look like a walk in the park was not kidding). A really lovely book, pitch-perfect from beginning to end. It somehow made me think of Pnin, though I can't exactly say why. Buy it, and keep my job meaningful!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Patrick44

    I gave it one star because zero stars doesn't show up. With the grammatical errors I am surprised this guy is a writing teacher. This book had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It was boring and depressing. I read it all hoping that the idiot would wake up and smell the roses. I suppose the author was putting forth his theory that we are consistent in our behavior. It reminds me a little of the book Something Happened in that the character was a hopelessly self-involved jerk. I gave it one star because zero stars doesn't show up. With the grammatical errors I am surprised this guy is a writing teacher. This book had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It was boring and depressing. I read it all hoping that the idiot would wake up and smell the roses. I suppose the author was putting forth his theory that we are consistent in our behavior. It reminds me a little of the book Something Happened in that the character was a hopelessly self-involved jerk.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mary Allison Tierney

    Finished it around 2 AM, immediately went outside and looked at the stars. If each chapter could be condensed, folding the words like Mad Magazine's fold-in back cover, matching the A and B arrows = poem. Finished it around 2 AM, immediately went outside and looked at the stars. If each chapter could be condensed, folding the words like Mad Magazine's fold-in back cover, matching the A and B arrows = poem.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jodi Angel

    This novel is filled with beautiful language and imagery, and beneath the surface is a story of grief set against the backdrop of numbing suburbia. I couldn't put it down. This novel is filled with beautiful language and imagery, and beneath the surface is a story of grief set against the backdrop of numbing suburbia. I couldn't put it down.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I did enjoy(ish) the book, it was a little slow-paced, but beautifully written. I got about halfway through before I just ran out of time and book club was upon me. Honestly, the book was a little too slow and depressed and I was kind of glad to run out of time on this one. It was okay, but I don't regret not finishing it. Unfortunately. I did enjoy(ish) the book, it was a little slow-paced, but beautifully written. I got about halfway through before I just ran out of time and book club was upon me. Honestly, the book was a little too slow and depressed and I was kind of glad to run out of time on this one. It was okay, but I don't regret not finishing it. Unfortunately.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    Christian Kiefer's mellow meditation on fallen astronaut Keith Corcoran's life, THE INFINITE TIDES, takes you into its ebb and flow through the gentle persistence of everyday happenings as they lap up against the spaceman. A victim of a different sort of space disaster, Corcoran is on an international space station when he is told that his teenaged daughter has died in a car accident. He remains on the mission for three months and has to view the funeral by tape. This is all in the past, however, Christian Kiefer's mellow meditation on fallen astronaut Keith Corcoran's life, THE INFINITE TIDES, takes you into its ebb and flow through the gentle persistence of everyday happenings as they lap up against the spaceman. A victim of a different sort of space disaster, Corcoran is on an international space station when he is told that his teenaged daughter has died in a car accident. He remains on the mission for three months and has to view the funeral by tape. This is all in the past, however, as the book begins. The reader meets the astronaut in a Houston suburb where new pieces of wreckage appear from this earthbound tragedy. His wife has left him; she has emptied the house of all of its furnishings; and what remains becomes a metaphor for the shell of a life he must now contend with. Meantime, a subplot begins to inch its way into the main one as the book unfolds. Corcoran meets a Ukrainian immigrant, Peter Kovalenko, who worked as an astronomer in the old country and is employed stocking shelves at Target in the new country. This bitter man frequently hauls a telescope into an empty lot adjacent to Corcoran's, then peers into the black emptiness Corcoran has just returned from to identify Messier objects in the night sky. The listless astronaut/protagonist moves between the immigrant's orbit, sharing beer and pot, and a neighbor lady's, sharing bed and showers. Adrift, in pain, and at a loss? This isn't the half of it, given the personal demons and daily slings and arrows that continue to assault him. One philosophical thread surrounds discussion of a comet that has a slight chance of hitting the earth. Here is a typical exchange between the immigrant, Peter, and the astronaut, Keith, while gazing at the night sky: "The world is always coming to end," Peter said. "Comet is coming or is not coming. So this does not matter." "Very philosophical," Keith said. "Not philosophy. True. Stars and galaxies are being born and dying. This is what you see when you look through telescope. Things sometimes crash into other things. Galaxies absorb other galaxies. These things happen. The world is always coming to end. Keith paused. Then he said, "Let's party like it's 1999." This humorous touch, coming through a metaphor darkly, is typical of the author's style. Peter's "non-philosophy" is actually an opening that Keith can choose to enter or ignore. He thinks his world HAS come to an end, but the Ukrainian would have him believe that "these things happen." Though he possesses a top rate mathematical mind, Keith Corcoran is struggling with this equation. Helping him through this problem during for a second reentry into life is this novel's sometimes sad, sometimes bittersweet mission.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Let me start by saying I won a copy of The Infinite Tides through Goodreads First Reads. I love mystery and surprise and enjoy having the story unfold before me without any preconceived ideas or information that might spoil the plot or distract me from "hearing" the words of the author. I choose books by recommendation, rating, title, authors I like, sometimes cover art and usually the first line of the blurb (never more than that because it is TMI). Therefore, I knew nothing more about this boo Let me start by saying I won a copy of The Infinite Tides through Goodreads First Reads. I love mystery and surprise and enjoy having the story unfold before me without any preconceived ideas or information that might spoil the plot or distract me from "hearing" the words of the author. I choose books by recommendation, rating, title, authors I like, sometimes cover art and usually the first line of the blurb (never more than that because it is TMI). Therefore, I knew nothing more about this book then that "Keith Corcoran has spent his entire life preparing to be an astronaut" and that I really liked the title. This book was very well written and quite impressive for a first novel. It is what I call a "thinker's book"; throughout the story there are passages that make you stop and pause, wonder, think and maybe even analyze yourself. The downfall of many a novel is poor dialogue, stilted and unrealistic, that may further the plot but does not seem natural and is often downright lame. Not so with this novel, the dialogue seems real and true to the characters although every now and then I wanted to kick Keith when he said "ok", lol. As a lover of words, my favorite lines in the book? "What could he say? He had opened upon an infinity and it had become an infinity of loss." Great book Christian, would not mind getting a free copy of your next book, but I am also willing to buy your next novel too, well done.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tom Moore

    I found myself conflicted initially after reading this back in may. I took it to a charity shop but after a couple weeks, i went back and bought it again. I felt I had missed the point to a book I otherwise had high hopes for. I'm surprised nobody picked it up, the cover art is awesome... Its a well written book there is no doubt about it but at 400 pages it is very drawn out. The imagery is great but, there wasnt enough of a story to keep me invested and the imagery is limited when the majority I found myself conflicted initially after reading this back in may. I took it to a charity shop but after a couple weeks, i went back and bought it again. I felt I had missed the point to a book I otherwise had high hopes for. I'm surprised nobody picked it up, the cover art is awesome... Its a well written book there is no doubt about it but at 400 pages it is very drawn out. The imagery is great but, there wasnt enough of a story to keep me invested and the imagery is limited when the majority of it is set in what you could say is a 2 dimensional cul-de-sac. I had the urge to skim through chunks that were very slow. I loved the concept and i was looking forward to seeing what journey Keith would take me on but, as I got deeper, I realised that Keith's journey would be an inner journey and instead he was going to stay in and paint the walls.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nevena

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Beautifully written book, a novel idea. Enjoyed reading it a lot. I only wish I knew if he went back... :)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Brody

    Keith Corcoran has known that he's wanted to become an astronaut for as long as he can remember. He has a goal and he follows his trajectory until he makes it. There is no word like failure in his personal dictionary. He has goals and when he makes them he attains them. A graduate of Princeton, he goes on for his Ph.D. in mathematics and engineering and it's not long before he's hired on with NASA and goes through official astronaut training. Meanwhile, he has a wife, Barb, and a daughter, Quinn Keith Corcoran has known that he's wanted to become an astronaut for as long as he can remember. He has a goal and he follows his trajectory until he makes it. There is no word like failure in his personal dictionary. He has goals and when he makes them he attains them. A graduate of Princeton, he goes on for his Ph.D. in mathematics and engineering and it's not long before he's hired on with NASA and goes through official astronaut training. Meanwhile, he has a wife, Barb, and a daughter, Quinn, who do not live with him in Houston while he trains. He tries to go back to see them every weekend but this plan falters and he gets back every other week, then every three weeks and then once a month if he's lucky. He becomes more and more distant to his family, especially Quinn, the daughter who he loves. Finally he gets to go into space. While in space he gets the horrible news that his seventeen year-old daughter, Quinn, has died in an automobile accident. Shortly afterwards, Barb tells him that she is leaving him. He is not one to show emotions very well but he starts developing migraines of horrible severity which jeopardize his mission. It is three months until NASA can get him back to earth and he has to watch Quinn's funeral on DVD which NASA taped for him. Keith has always thought that Quinn was just like him but only better, a natural mathematician who would go to a special high school academy and excel in math. Instead, Quinn chooses to go to a regular high school and becomes a cheer leader, not wanting to go to the 'nerd' school. She likes the things that teenagers like - cell phones, music, clubs, and has a boyfriend. Keith is unhappy with her and the very last conversation they had before she died, he told her he was disappointed with her. No longer was she the little girl who saw colors in numbers like he did, the girl with a plan. She was floundering - being a typical seventeen year-old. Keith wants her to have a plan, be like him and strive for something in the future. Keith is put on medical leave after his mission and he goes back to his cul-de-sac where Barb has cleared out all of his personal possessions, leaving only a table and chairs and a sofa. He has a psychiatrist who tells him all the time that he sounds angry but Keith does not understand what the psychiatrist means as he doesn't 'feel' angry. He thinks of Quinn but he has not begun the real mourning process. His life feels empty but he does not dwell on anything in particular. He begins an affair with a randy neighbor who, it turns out, is married to the man that Barb left Keith for. Barb keeps calling Keith to the point that Keith has his phone number changed. She wants some money to live on but Keith cleans out their bank accounts and leaves Barb without a source of income. Keith takes walks into the field behind the cul-de-sac at night and runs into a Ukranian immigrant named Peter who is an astronomer by hobby. He used to work as a tech assistant in a huge astronomical station in the Ukraine. He has a telescope and together they look at the stars and universes. Keith even brings his sofa to the vacant lot and they drink beer and smoke some pot as they look at the heavens. Peter becomes a real friend to Keith. The story is beautifully written but it lacks the ability to really touch me in the ways that I believe the author meant to. I know that Keith has an internal grief that is paralyzing him but I just don't get to really feel it until the very end of the novel. I understand that he is floundering, that he can't put words to what he feels, that he is in real pain, but something is missing in the dialogue that makes the book seem a bit distant. The end of the book is beautifully rendered and is worth reading just for that. His friendship with Peter blossoms and, through connection, Keith finds himself and learns to express his feelings. This is Christian Kiefer's first novel and it is a lovely one, filled with passion and angst. I look forward to his future writing which I will be sure to read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Eckstein

    The main character of this debut is an astronaut and engineer who attains his life's goal when he boards the International Space Station, where he will install and test a component that he designed. But during Keith's months-long mission, a tragedy strikes his family back home. When he is finally able to return to Earth, he's confronted with an empty shell of his old life. Keith longs to be back in orbit, where he was fully occupied with his work and the happiest he'd ever been. Instead he's aim The main character of this debut is an astronaut and engineer who attains his life's goal when he boards the International Space Station, where he will install and test a component that he designed. But during Keith's months-long mission, a tragedy strikes his family back home. When he is finally able to return to Earth, he's confronted with an empty shell of his old life. Keith longs to be back in orbit, where he was fully occupied with his work and the happiest he'd ever been. Instead he's aimless for the first time, and what's left of his life keeps unraveling further. As you might expect, this is a fairly depressing story overall, but it's full of moments that are amusing and even hilarious. Keith isn't great at interacting with people and would prefer to stay out of everyone else's way, but he meets several neighbors who drag him into their own complicated lives. The characters are all well developed and fascinating, especially Keith. I really felt for him as he struggles with grief and anger and a desire to lose himself again in his love of numbers, the only things that make sense. This is a character-focused novel in which not a lot happens, but that's by design. Christian Kiefer was one of the staff members at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, where I had the opportunity to meet him and hear him talk about his book. He described it this way (paraphrased from my notes): "It's about a man living in a cul de sac, and almost the whole book takes place in his empty house in an unfinished neighborhood, or in Starbucks. Previously he was orbiting Earth, going in circles. Every day is the same, like in the movie Groundhog Day. He doesn't know what to do with himself every day. But other things are poking in, more and more as the story goes along, and by the end he is longing for the days when he had nothing to do." THE INFINITE TIDES shares several elements with SHINE SHINE SHINE by Lydia Netzer, which I raved about last year, though the two are very different in tone. I asked Kiefer if he'd read Netzer's novel, and he said the two of them had become friends and critique partners because of their books. I love the idea of two novelists I admire looking over each other's work. THE INFINITE TIDES is another strong recommendation, and Kiefer is another writer I can't wait to read more from.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Paul Wilner

    he Infinite Tides By Christian Kiefer (Bloomsbury; 393 pages; $26) The poetry of suburbia and space odyssey meet, successfully, in Christian Kiefer's debut novel, "The Infinite Tides." It's the tale of Keith Corcoran, an alienated astronaut who loses his teenage daughter to a car accident and his marriage to the consequences of that tragedy as he floats above the planet, wounded by migraines and Lear-like pain. Grounded, he faces the reality of an empty ranch house, an empty life and the contemplati he Infinite Tides By Christian Kiefer (Bloomsbury; 393 pages; $26) The poetry of suburbia and space odyssey meet, successfully, in Christian Kiefer's debut novel, "The Infinite Tides." It's the tale of Keith Corcoran, an alienated astronaut who loses his teenage daughter to a car accident and his marriage to the consequences of that tragedy as he floats above the planet, wounded by migraines and Lear-like pain. Grounded, he faces the reality of an empty ranch house, an empty life and the contemplation of empty days to come. In Kiefer's hands, it's a pitiless and often pitiful account, as Corcoran seeks refuge in the hot arms of a neighbor (whose husband, it turns out, was having an affair with his spouse), and the friendship of an alienated Ukrainian emigre reduced to stacking boxes at Target. Kiefer's exploration of "the dark matter flowing into and out of your heart," analogous to the Pascalian silence of the skies, is expert and anguished. Sitting in Starbucks, Corcoran reaches for a newspaper "for no reason other than to divert his mind, staring at headlines on foreclosures, the imploding real estate market, the rising price of oil, the increasing unemployment rate. Servicemen captured in Iraq. Bombs in Afghanistan." The banality of yesterday's papers - and the possibility of a comet hitting the Earth - are immune to the good intentions of the 12 steps his shrink offers. "My daughter's dead," he reflects. "Quinn. My god." With no deity in sight, he looks up at the heavens through the borrowed telescope of his Ukrainian friend, on a battered sofa the two have dragged out into a field. His friend gets high, he drinks beer. Nothing matters. Corcoran ultimately finds solace, of a sort, though Kiefer remains resolutely unsentimental. The sky of his fiction is big, and ultimately forgiving. And dark. ‌ ‌ - Paul Wilner, [email protected]

  22. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    So, I haven't decided how I feel about the book yet. I have a lot of random thoughts, so feel free to comment on any, all or none of the following.... Of course I was sad when we found out Keith's daughter died, but the second saddest part for me in the book was when he found out he lost the pictures and personal items of hers in the storage unit. Really sad. All the adulterous relationships in the story sickened me; however, I thought they were all very real in their depiction in how their selfi So, I haven't decided how I feel about the book yet. I have a lot of random thoughts, so feel free to comment on any, all or none of the following.... Of course I was sad when we found out Keith's daughter died, but the second saddest part for me in the book was when he found out he lost the pictures and personal items of hers in the storage unit. Really sad. All the adulterous relationships in the story sickened me; however, I thought they were all very real in their depiction in how their selfishness and vengefulness was portrayed. Jennifer's husband creeped me out....well, Jennifer really creeped me out for that matter. She repulsed me as a mother. I really enjoyed it when Keith switched his bank account though...that's the "dark side" of me coming through;) I thought Keith's responses were all very believable : the death of his daughter, separation from wife, and tough realization that work isn't everything. It's striking how Keith was so concerned about the future of his daughter, yet he wasn't invested in her current life. Yes, he wanted her to go to a good school but only because that impacted her future. He didn't spend any time with her. That made me sad for him and her. I liked how the book ended actually. You didn't know what would come of the comet or astroid (or whatever it was), and he was content sitting on the beach. Overall, it was a sad book with believable responses to situations. I just wish Keith could have realized earlier what is important in life. It makes me wonder what he lives for from here on out. He is literally left with nothing. I am a Christian, so for me, there is something greater to live for. I am sad for people who don't believe that there is something bigger than all of us to live for.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Keith Corcoran is an astronaut whose daughter died and wife left him while he was at the space station a few hundred miles above earth. This is an interesting, cringe-inducing setup. The character is in the atmosphere (no gravity, get it?) when he receives the most devastating news a parent can hear and there is no possible way to get home quickly. He has to watch a video of his daughter’s funeral several months after the fact. We meet Keith when all of this has already happened. He’s back on ear Keith Corcoran is an astronaut whose daughter died and wife left him while he was at the space station a few hundred miles above earth. This is an interesting, cringe-inducing setup. The character is in the atmosphere (no gravity, get it?) when he receives the most devastating news a parent can hear and there is no possible way to get home quickly. He has to watch a video of his daughter’s funeral several months after the fact. We meet Keith when all of this has already happened. He’s back on earth, wandering around. The atmosphere/effect is quite detached. At first it’s almost as though he’s not that upset about the daughter or the wife for that matter. As a reader it’s a bit off-putting but it does work on some level because I’d imagine a person could get to some sort of numb and detached state after going through what he did. Not a lot happens in this book. Hardly anything at all. And if you’re looking for insight into the relationship between a father and his teenage daughter you won’t get it here. For her big role Quinn is very small. The whole suburbia/space juxtaposition is brilliantly rendered and how could you not like the relationship between Keith and his neighbor Peter? The author could’ve made Barb (ex-wife) seem likeable on some level. She’s not portrayed with a single ounce of humanity or complexity, just shrill and evil. I’m not surprised the critics are crazy over this book. There is a sort of beautiful and heartbreaking simplicity to it. That said, I don’t think it would have mass appeal. I tend to like “quieter” books and it was excruciatingly slow at times, even for me. I liked it but would only recommend it to a few.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    It's interesting how the summary on the jacket about an astronaut surviving in an alien world could be so completely misleading and yet true at the same time. The Infinite Tides is in no way science fiction or a post apocalyptic "survival book"; not in the way you'd imagine. It's about a man's world being turned upside down while he's in an incredibly vulnerable situation. And it's probably one of the best pieces of fiction I've read. The writer's ability to put into words some aspects of our th It's interesting how the summary on the jacket about an astronaut surviving in an alien world could be so completely misleading and yet true at the same time. The Infinite Tides is in no way science fiction or a post apocalyptic "survival book"; not in the way you'd imagine. It's about a man's world being turned upside down while he's in an incredibly vulnerable situation. And it's probably one of the best pieces of fiction I've read. The writer's ability to put into words some aspects of our thoughts and emotions that are normally so hard to explain and articulate is really special, and he does this all in a clear and simple way. I mean, it can't be very easy to make a mathematical genius / astronaut so human and relatable, but he does it. My only regret is reading through it so quickly...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sherry H

    While Keith Corcoran is fulfilling his lifelong dream of being an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, experiencing the staggering enormity and beauty of space, his wife back home leaves him, and his daughter dies in a terrible accident. He return to their shared house, on a mandatory “vacation” from NASA, to find it empty. The book covers a handful of weeks during which Keith deals with gravity, his losses, his migraine headaches, his empty house. His genius math skills are no help While Keith Corcoran is fulfilling his lifelong dream of being an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, experiencing the staggering enormity and beauty of space, his wife back home leaves him, and his daughter dies in a terrible accident. He return to their shared house, on a mandatory “vacation” from NASA, to find it empty. The book covers a handful of weeks during which Keith deals with gravity, his losses, his migraine headaches, his empty house. His genius math skills are no help in figuring out how to move his life forward. His human interactions are limited to a neighbor child and her mother, the inhabitants of his local Starbucks, and his required phone-based psychotherapy. Not my typical selection, but I’m glad I read this. Despite the tragedy and the melancholy, I found hope here. And beauty. And life.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristina Harper

    I thought this book was stunning. The skeleton of the story is completely relatable to anyone with a family, a dream, a loss, expectations -- but then Kiefer fleshes it out by situating it in space, and it becomes intimate and infinite at the same time. It's beautifully written -- I only wonder how deep my appreciation might have been if I had understood the mathematics and the physics with which the story is peppered. All of that, unfortunately, was completely over my head. That the author, a p I thought this book was stunning. The skeleton of the story is completely relatable to anyone with a family, a dream, a loss, expectations -- but then Kiefer fleshes it out by situating it in space, and it becomes intimate and infinite at the same time. It's beautifully written -- I only wonder how deep my appreciation might have been if I had understood the mathematics and the physics with which the story is peppered. All of that, unfortunately, was completely over my head. That the author, a professor in the English Department at a community college here in Sacramento, seems to have a grasp of this level of mathematics is pretty amazing. Loved, loved, loved this book and will be haunted by the story for some time to come.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Roadside_picnicker

    A very leisurely-paced meditation on grief and self discovery. I know, I know, rich white male flees his problems to the suburbs. Only this guy's an astronaut. And probably suffers from some disorder. By his attempts to grasp the world around him, we see that a lot of human nature does not objectively make sense. The protagonist is a mathematical whiz constantly trying to grasp the ungraspable: fractals, complex engineering problems, his wife's philandering and his daughter's death. This could h A very leisurely-paced meditation on grief and self discovery. I know, I know, rich white male flees his problems to the suburbs. Only this guy's an astronaut. And probably suffers from some disorder. By his attempts to grasp the world around him, we see that a lot of human nature does not objectively make sense. The protagonist is a mathematical whiz constantly trying to grasp the ungraspable: fractals, complex engineering problems, his wife's philandering and his daughter's death. This could have veered straight into Eat, Pray, Love territory, but it maintains its dignity and effervescent charm through the strength of its characters. Everyone has a hidden side. Even Keith.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Willner9

    "I tell you now: there are no epiphanies....." Christian Kiefer writes some of the most beautiful prose I have ever read. The storyline in The Infinite Tides is delicate and intricate, but does drag a bit in some places. However, regardless of a few slow moments, Kiefer's elegant writing presents a treatise on human grief and friendship, with a brilliant juxtaposition of mathemtical principles that makes set theory sound like an artistic technique. Even if you read this book and despise it, hang "I tell you now: there are no epiphanies....." Christian Kiefer writes some of the most beautiful prose I have ever read. The storyline in The Infinite Tides is delicate and intricate, but does drag a bit in some places. However, regardless of a few slow moments, Kiefer's elegant writing presents a treatise on human grief and friendship, with a brilliant juxtaposition of mathemtical principles that makes set theory sound like an artistic technique. Even if you read this book and despise it, hang on until the last paragraph - it is so remarkable that it must be read over and over again, preferably aloud.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    The writing was smooth - it was a great book to sink into over winter break. The story is told in just the right pace, the key plot points are revealed in just the right places. I found the ending predictable, but it fit the storyline. It was a confessional story full of honesty and self discovery. This is difficult to do because the reader has to like the protagonist to care about his journey, especially in this case because he is represented as largely passive. But that is the point of the jou The writing was smooth - it was a great book to sink into over winter break. The story is told in just the right pace, the key plot points are revealed in just the right places. I found the ending predictable, but it fit the storyline. It was a confessional story full of honesty and self discovery. This is difficult to do because the reader has to like the protagonist to care about his journey, especially in this case because he is represented as largely passive. But that is the point of the journey, so I rate it well done.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ben Rand

    Loved this book. "Know this. That the things that go into the fire are forever changed. That all you have ever done can be measured not by distance but by circumference. That these twin spirals of smoke: they are your life, rising in curls." "I tell you now: There are no epiphanies. The place where you sit reading these words is the same place you have always been, your life ever-arrowing to the moment that is this moment and this one. And this. An infinite set spiraling in brightness, without mag Loved this book. "Know this. That the things that go into the fire are forever changed. That all you have ever done can be measured not by distance but by circumference. That these twin spirals of smoke: they are your life, rising in curls." "I tell you now: There are no epiphanies. The place where you sit reading these words is the same place you have always been, your life ever-arrowing to the moment that is this moment and this one. And this. An infinite set spiraling in brightness, without magnitude, cardinality, sum, or number."

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