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Race Across the Sky: A Novel

Race Across the Sky: A Novel

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After September 11th, 2001 Caleb Oberest left his successful finance job in New York City to join a group of secluded ultramaraton runners living in Boulder, Colorado. Cut off from their families and much of society, members of the Happy Trails Running Club devote their lives to competing in 100-mile marathons through treacherous terrain. In San Francisco, Caleb's brother Shane is moving from selling pharmaceutical drugs to working with a biotechnology company when he hears from his brother for the first time in nearly ten years. Breaking one of the running club's rules, Caleb has fallen in love with another member and is desperate to find a cure for her infant daughter's fatal genetic disease, something Shane is unsure he is able to do with a new baby and family of his own.

While Race Across the Sky may seem like a novel about marathon runners and drug companies, its core is much deeper and more intricate. Sherman manages to use two science-centered topics to hold up the inner workings of his book; themes of family, morality, and truth, which feel incredibly human. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that he has a talent for finding and highlighting the beauty in small, seemingly insignificant moments that others might miss.

Despite the fact that I am definitely not a runner or a scientist, I found myself begging for just one more chapter through my whole reading experience. Though their situations and lives are extreme, Sherman's characters feel undoubtedly real and they are hard to let go of. Race Across the Sky is a wholly original, well researched and beautifully executed debut that should be in the hands of as many readers as possible.

Blog: www.rivercityreading.com ( )
  rivercityreading | Aug 10, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Race Across the Sky is the story of two brothers. The elder, Caleb, was once a well-off successful consultant in New York City who abandoned his life to join a mountain commune dedicated to ultramarathoning. The younger, Shane, is changing careers from pharmaceutical salesman to biotech salesman as he and his wife are expecting their first child. Caleb has found solace in severing all ties with the outside world, including his family, to live a regimented life of running with the commune under the leadership of the radical Mack, that is, until a young mother shows up seeking healing for her sick child. Caleb does the forbidden and falls in love with June, and soon his carefully structured life is crumbling beneath his new love. When he asks Shane for help finding a cure for June's terminally ill baby, Lily, both brothers embark upon a dangerous journey upon which hinges life and death.

I had mixed feelings about Race Across the Sky. On the one hand, Sherman has crafted what I found to be a startlingly unique book delving into two subjects that interest me greatly that haven't turned up in much fiction that I've read. Sherman's glimpse into the world of ultramarathon running is fascinating. I've always wondered what makes a runner want to participate in such a punishing sport, and Caleb's life offers an interesting perspective on that and what happens when it's taken to far by Mack and becomes downright cultish. At the same time, Sherman tackles the field of genetic research, revealing a world where there are diseases that can be cured but never will be according to the laws of capitalism. Shane's storyline might occasionally wander into the far-fetched, but the exploration and explanation of the biotechnology industry is extremely enlightening.

Debut novelist Sherman does an enviable job of juggling his two unique topics without shorting his characters and without resorting to unrealistic information dumps. Caleb is a fascinating character, driven to find a life that means something in the wake of 9/11. Shane is a sympathetic new dad who would do anything to win back the brother he has always idolized. The only place that Sherman failed, which unfortunately proves to be too memorable in book that is otherwise likeable, is in the quiet moments with his newborn when Sherman attempts to capture the universality of feeling that prompts Shane to risk his career, reputation, and possibly his freedom to help a stranger's baby. Sherman doesn't quite hit his mark with this crucial point, and it leaves a lot of Shane's story to feel, at best, foolish, and at worst, completely ungenuine. Despite this failing, Race Against the Sky is a unique, well-paced, and interesting first novel from Derek Sherman, and I'll be looking forward to what he comes up with next. ( )
  yourotherleft | Dec 22, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Ultra running mixed with pharmacology sounds a bit strange but it works here. Caleb Oberest falls in love with one of the members of his ultra marathoning group whose baby has a fatal breathing condition that can be treated, but not cost effectively. Thus, we embark on a moral race, literally, to save one child, possibly. There is some great information about ultra marathoning and biotechnology and diseases that make this an interesting and timely read and the relationships Caleb has with his estranged brother and the guru marathon leader balances the tech side. This also provides an inside look at the ultra marathon phenomenon, although in a fictional setting, the author has done his research. Good read! ( )
  hfineisen | Jan 4, 2014 |
Caleb Oberest works in a highly paid corporate position in New York City until the events of 9-11 shatter his world. On an impulse, he quits his job and moves to Colorado to join an elite group of ultra marathoners. These runners slave beneath the tutelage of a man named Mack who believes in pushing one’s body to such an extreme as to produce kinetic energy capable of sustaining the body with as little as 4 hours of sleep and very little fuel. To belong, members of the group sever ties to family and friends and vow to turn from any romantic relationships. Caleb immerses himself in this running cult, cutting all connection to his family to become a premier ultra marathoner. But then a young woman named June arrives in the mountains of Colorado with her very ill infant daughter, Lily, looking for the healing powers which Mack promises…and everything changes.

Shane, Caleb’s brother, works at a biotech firm which finds cures for fatal diseases. He and his wife, Janelle, are expecting their first baby and life has never seemed better. Then Shane gets a letter from Caleb after eleven years of silence. Caleb is desperate for a cure for Lily. Reeling from his own feelings toward becoming a father, Shane makes a decision to help in any way he can even if it means putting his career and everything he loves at risk.

Derek Sherman’s debut novel, Race Across the Sky, explores the limits of human endurance both physically and emotionally. Narrated in alternating points of view between Shane and Caleb, the story reels the reader into the obsessive world of competitive distance running and the lure of cults, as well as giving a disturbing glimpse into the powerful, financially driven realm of biotechnology firms and the development of medicines.

Sherman’s prose is character driven and compelling. From page one, I found myself intrigued and embroiled in the lives of the characters. Sensitive without being maudlin, the story is ultimately about love – that between brothers, and between parents and children, and also romantic love and how it can save us from despair. As I was reading, I found myself asking “What would you do to save someone else? What would you do for the person you love? Would you risk everything?”

Race Across the Sky is dazzling in its descriptions of the Colorado and California mountains. As a runner once myself, I thought Sherman truly captured the compulsion of athletic competition and the battle that runners have within themselves to simply finish a distance race. I also loved the insight into the medical world of drug companies and the cutting edge technology of the biotech field.

I fully enjoyed this novel from beginning to end. It is compulsively readable with a strong plot, well-constructed characters, and terrific writing. Original and thought provoking, I can recommend Race Across the Sky for readers who like their novels to be provocative. ( )
  writestuff | Aug 11, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is the story of two estranged brothers; Caleb, who is an ultra-marathon runner and part of a running cult. He has cut himself off from his family for years, quit his high paying job and just lives to run the ultra-marathon. Shane works for the pharmaceutical industry, married and a new father. When a new member joins Caleb’s ruining club, he begins to fall in love with her and her daughter; who has a genetic disorder. He reaches out to Shane with hopes of finding a cure.

Shane and Caleb are brothers that haven’t spoken in years; I didn’t feel the connection between them. Although the author has deeply developed the psyche of the ultra-marathon runner and what it takes to be such a person and explains the ins and outs of developing and testing a new drug, the human aspect of the story was ordinary. I was waiting for that big spark that would wrap it all together and it didn’t ignite (not for me). The ending was predictable with a minor surprise. It is a good story from a new author. ( )
  grumpydan | Aug 2, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0452299063, Paperback)

Who would you run one hundred miles for?

Caleb Oberest is an ultramarathon runner, who severed all ties to his family to race brutal 100-mile marathons across mountains. Shane Oberest is a sales rep for a  cutting-edge biotechnology firm, creating new cures for the diseases of our time. Shane has spent his life longing to connect with his older brother, but the distance between them was always too vast.

Caleb’s running group live by strict rules, but Caleb is breaking one of them. He has fallen in love with a new member and her infant daughter.  When Caleb discovers that the baby has a fatal genetic disease, he reaches out to Shane. On the verge of becoming a father himself, Shane devises a plan that could save this baby and bring his lost brother home. But to succeed, both brothers will need to risk everything they have. And so each begins a dangerous race that will push them past their boundaries, and take all of Caleb’s legendry endurance to survive.

Derek Sherman’s authentic, compelling story of ultramarathons, biotechnology, and family takes us deep into new worlds and examines how far we will go for the people we love.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:19 -0400)

When his brother Caleb breaks a major rule of his running club and falls in love with one of its members and her infant daughter, Lily, who has a fatal genetic condition, Shane works in secret to produce a cure for Lily in hopes of reconnecting with the brother he idolizes.… (more)

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