116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
During the recent Iowa City Book Festival, Alexander Maksik appeared at Prairie Lights with Nathan Hill, author of 'The Nix.” Understandably, most of the pre-event hype was about Hill, an Iowa native who worked for The Gazette for a time and whose debut novel has garnered heaps of well-deserved praise.
But make no mistake: Maksik, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, is also deserving of your attention. His third novel, 'Shelter in Place,” is an exceptional look at the vagaries of bi-polar disorder, as well as a powerful consideration of family (both blood and chosen), violence against women (and in response to that violence), and the overwhelming power of love (even when that love comes at a high cost).
Joe, the book's narrator, struggles with mental illness, describing his lowest and highest moments as 'the tar and the bird and the other thing, for which I have no name.” The story he tells is of the loss of nearly everyone essential in his life - most notably his troubled lover, Tess.
In chapters that very in tone and length - mirroring, often, the narrator's mental state as he reflects - Joe spins his story and longs for a resolution that he is certain will elude him. Maksik and his narrator implicate the reader in the story, as well:
'I know you're tired of this. You want my mother to find God. Want her to appear bathed in golden light, a look of profound peace upon her face ... Or is it me you're sick of? Me and all my weeping, my weakness and wretched devotion, my broken filters, whatever ... they are, whatever that nonsense is.”
Those appeals and confessions to the reader give 'Shelter in Place” an uncommon sense of intimacy and urgency.
'Shelter in Place” is a strong addition to Maksik's body of work, which also includes 'You Deserve Nothing” and 'A Maker to Measure Drift,” both excellent books.