Monday, 5 December 2011

Traveling Light by Lloyd A. Meeker

An eye for an eye... Ian McCandless is a hospice nurse, training to become a shaman. When his mentor orders him to make peace with his estranged family, Ian reluctantly agrees, anticipating just another conflict-filled visit. On their way from the airport Ian's older brother Will interrupts a convenience store robbery and is shot, dying in Ian's arms and calling to him for vengeance. Ian uses his shamanic abilities to track down the killer, but his quest soon turns into a hunt for revenge---forbidden to any shaman. Ian's pursuit jeopardizes his relationship with the spirit world, endangers the lives of those he loves and threatens to banish him from the only path that gives his life meaning.

This will be the most unusual book sharing I’ve ever done. I tumbled thoughts over and over in my head, trying to compose the right words to review it. And…I could not do it.

Then I finally realized—this was not a book. It was a journey, a fabulous trip. The only way I can do the work justice is to simply show you the postcards of this excursion as I would any travels and warn that my humble words, like any postcard or snapshot, cannot begin to compare with its real-life beauty.

Traveling Light begins in an Anasazi Village in the year 1250, where the reader joins a beautiful young Shaman named Tu-Kuat. I immediately got wonderful chills just from the ancient setting, but Mr. Meeker’s prose lent the already-scenic vision rich color and authenticity to a world I find incredibly fascinating but can only imagine. Through the author’s eyes, I am there. I’m transported.

The story (no plot—this IS C. Zampa, after all)…but I will tell you that the tale alternates between Tu-Kuat’s ancient world and the world of the hero of the story, Ian McCandless. It just so happens Ian is also a soon-to-be shaman in the present time in Vancouver.

Driven by separate missions, Ian’s path crosses with Tu-Kuat’s in the spirit world. And this realm, which is a good portion of the book—and, to me, the most magnificent, stunning factor of the journey—was as vivid and spectacularly painted as any film I’ve ever seen.

Ian’s personal life as a hospice nurse brings a handful of wonderful characters who are his patients—Edna Halliday, an elderly cancer patient; Michael Gillis, a young man dying of AIDS. The entire supporting cast is a wonderful menagerie of real-to-life people, folks you’d know anywhere and whose lives I found myself caring for.

Without revealing plot, I will tell you that a tragedy strikes close to Ian’s life, tearing him apart in a tug-of-war between his very human need for revenge and his loyalty to his ‘new tribe’ as a shaman. As the blurb said, the quest for revenge is forbidden as a shaman.

And his hell-bent mission to seek revenge turns out to present a most profound ‘proverb’ in the book—a recurring theme that what is justice in our eyes truly may not be, but just the opposite. There is none capable of greater evil than the self-righteous. The greatest wrongs spring from those most certain they are justified in their acts.

And another powerful message: A man’s character is his fate ---Hercalitus. A man’s character, his own destiny, IS his life and no one has the right to tamper with that, no matter what the reason.

Now to the part I find so difficult to describe, the heart of the book that captivated me, nearly broke me into tears because it was so beautiful, so breathtaking and so…real…I didn’t want to leave. The Spirit World.

Meeker’s prose was unbelievably crystal-clear in the painting of this realm. For instance, when Ian sees a loved one’s life thread in this Great Web, the telling of it was one of the most remarkable, chilling glimpses into the ‘other side’, this mystical eternity where souls just…are. They’re floating in a universe bigger than our imaginations can conceive, fragile, and then…well, see for yourself….

Then Ian floated into The Great Web again, standing at the end of Will’s life thread, watching all its shimmering potentials wink out one by one, and all the potentials of those potentials, reaching into infinity: the boisterous children never conceived, and their children’s children, the lives not touched, the sincerity, and labor and hope, the decades of love and effort—all, all faded, then, into nothing.

I’ve always been transfixed by the ancient beliefs of spirit animals, and Mr. Meeker introduces the reader to some of the most, reach-out-and-touch-them creatures I’ve ever encountered. Through his telling, I understood more clearly their purpose and could readily believe that ethereal world where animal and human are one. Damn, how very, very beautiful this was.

I don’t know much else to tell without revealing plot, which in itself was absorbing and high-emotion.

The scene in which Ian and Tu-Kuat connect in spirit lovemaking is one of the most sensual, erotic, beautiful (without being graphic) I’ve read and I still smile upon recalling it. (Tu-Kuat and Ian, by the way, I found extremely sexy).

I’m not pulling your leg in saying this universe Lloyd Meeker created was so exquisite—full of pastel beauty one moment followed by the raw, red and brown roughness of the ancient Anasazi village—that I felt a heavy heart when I had to walk away and back into the real world. And I’m not joking when I say it’s just one of those books that I’d give my eye teeth to see it adapted to a screen play for a film. It is that beautiful.


Lloyd Meeker said...

Wow, Thanks, C! You've made my day with your insightful and empathetic review. Many thanks, Lloyd

Victor J Banis said...

Carol, I agree with everything you said. This book is beyond lovely, it is really a miracle.

C. Zampa said...

Lloyd, it was my pleasure---my honor---to have read and reviewed. I am enthralled by spirit world travel and this was such a marvelous treat.

C. Zampa said...

Victor, that's a perfect word for this book. A miracle. Every image is still vivid in my mind.