How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky, by Lydia Netzer *****

  Imagine a complete collection of the Great Books. Add in all those that have won Pulitzers and the National Book. Do you see room for one more? If not, you’ll need to grab the title you never really thought belonged in this collection and toss it. Now, go ahead and slide this title in there, because it is where How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky belongs.

The story is about a pair of astronomers who were meant for one another on a whole lot of levels, but if, like me, astronomy bores you, this wonderful, quirky romance won’t. It contains a number of story elements that don’t usually appeal to me; the presence of a very unscientific sort of clairvoyance is one that usually causes me to close my book abruptly. This time, the story had me from hello, and it was going to take a lot more than that to turn me away. In the end, I didn’t want to.

I received my copy electronically via Net Galley in exchange for a review. I’ve read and written about dozens of free books either there or via the Goodreads first reads program, and I have never suggested that any other book was worthy of a place among the timeless classics by which we define ourselves as a society and pass down to our children. I’ve read some really good books, but I haven’t read one this great in years.

The suggestion that ancient Babylon was once where Toledo is seems a bit cheeky in some ways; typically American to assume it must be here somewhere. Those who hail from other countries won’t find it nearly so disturbing, I imagine, as will New Yorkers. But for our story’s purpose, the setting shouldn’t be anywhere except Toledo.

Irene, the protagonist, returns to Toledo from her position in the south to take a prestigious position. She also arrives in time to deal with her dead mother’s remains and clean out the house.
From there, nothing takes the trajectory that Irene has anticipated. A warm story that manages to be sentimental yet never maudlin, it pulled me in and I had to stay with Irene once I hit the halfway mark. I never thought once about character development, plot plausibility, pacing, transitions, or anything else. And once I was done, all I could think of was who else I should buy it for.

Don’t miss it. 


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