St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0-312-26503-4
By the hand of T. Greenwood's Indie Brown, we are thrown inside the sadness and elusiveness of a family dealing with Munchausen syndrome by proxy (disorders that cause sufferers to induce illness in themselves and in others). We are pulled into the story from the very beginning with the memory of Indie as a four-year-old being struck by lightning while sitting outside in a shopping cart. As an adult, Indie is living in a small town in Maine with her mate, Peter, but there is always something pulling her down—perhaps the unanswered questions of childhood she can never seem to let go. A call in the middle of the night sends her reeling into a past she'd much rather forget. Her mother is ill again. Is it self-inflicted?  
       Soon after returning to Arizona, Indie realizes her sister, Lily—the younger one, the prettier one, the favored one—is struggling with her own issues from the past. Lily's infant daughter is ill and contained to an oxygen tent; a mysterious illness has already plagued her life. Through well-written flashbacks the reader is shown Indie's brother Bennie, her beautiful brother; she always wished he could be the same as other boys his age. Her father, her protector—he never seemed to be around much. Who is to blame for the sickness and pain Indie is dealing with? The pain is realized through the life of her sister, the illness of her mother, and the thoughts that motivate her own decisions and define her as a woman.  
      Indie Brown's childhood memories paint disturbed pictures in our mind; they leave a mark on our hearts that most of us do not truly understand. Her memories are glimpses in the dark room paved by childhood terror.  
      Beautifully written, author T. Greenwood exposes her characters but seems carefully distant. Though her attention to detail is magnificent, she leaves the reader hungry for the real meat of the story. Like looking through a foggy glass window, the reader can witness pain, see the sickness that the family has endured, but through the foggy window empathy is impossible. We are left wanting more. We are left to ask what really happened.  
      The reader deals with wicked reflections of a child on a bathroom floor, her mother hovering over her. We are sweetened by memories of Indie's brother and trips to the creek in the summer and learn to love Indie's father as she craves the attention too much of which he can never give. We are struck by the apparent inequities her mother creates in the life of her young children. With the reader watching from behind, Indie Brown begins to question her life, her relationship with Peter, and most of all the peace for which she has always yearned. How much of the mystery of her childhood is still alive in her life without her comprehension?  
      The story begins to end on its own as Indie is finally ready to return home with the reality of her sister's sickness still alive in the pit of her stomach. The things she has grown to love and expect from Peter, now come into question. But what does one have to do with another? Ms. Greenwood never lets us know. Without us Indie comes to a realization about her childhood and her life with Peter which we are left to figure out alone.  
      Ms. Greenwood has the talent, the characters, the setting for a truly compelling story, but fails to deliver the goods as she tiptoes around the heart of her work. Her voice craves the opportunity to resonate within the pages but just keeps missing the mark. It ends too quietly. The characters in Nearer Than the Sky aren't given much life or light; we see them left behind as the story continues to be told.  
      Nearer Than the Sky touches our hearts through well-written dialogue and articulated flashbacks, but doesn't allow us inside to see for ourselves. We've seen these characters endure and deserve closure, an ending to the saga of which we have somehow become a part.