A Hook in the Sky, by Claude Nougat, a review by @stephenwoodfin
December 31, 2012
A Hook in the Sky is a quintessential baby boomer novel, a remarkable look at a man in transition from the world he knows to the one he has only imagined. It is a story of gratification delayed, realized and rejected, a commentary on the shades of green of the other man’s grass.
The protagonist, Robert, is just retiring from a career with the United Nations when first we meet him. What follows is his long-awaited life of freedom, a life in which he can pursue his art, an interest he has shelved for decades. From the minute he leaves his office for the last time, things go awry.
Author Claude Nougat knows her subject. Herself retired from the United Nations after a twenty-five year career, she brings a unique perspective to her main character. A world citizen now living in Italy with her Sicilian husband, she displays an amazing breadth of experience, not only as a diplomat, but also as someone who knows the ins and outs of modern and classical art, the vibe of New York City, London and Paris, the countryside of Umbria.
(As a kid growing up in East Texas, I thought Paris was a town just south of the Red River.)
A Hook in the Sky is a complex, multi-layered treatment of many of the issues people confront as they age and reflect on what has been, what is, what might be. It bounces between worldly cynicism and humanitarian values, between greed and self-denial, between lust and love.
When Robert and his estranged wife, the owner of an art gallery in New York, re-unite to work on a project, things take an unpredictable and deadly turn. Nougat uses the project, a combination of ladders that leads upward through a labyrinth toward a hook that floats in the heavens, as a symbol of the search for meaning, a contemporary Tower of Babel.
Books like A Hook in the Sky demonstrate the coming of age of the baby boomer novel. Claude Nougat, a pioneer in the genre, has set a high standard for authors who hope to tread that path.
(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney, author and recovering baby boomer. Some have said that his book The Warrior with Alzheimer’s may be a boomer book.)