The Isle of Khería
Obsessed, crazed with grief at the loss of his wife, Joel, now living a reclusive life in a farm commune in Canada, learns of the death of his dearest friend, Aidan. He is compelled to journey to an island in Greece, Khería, where Aidan had swum off into a storm and drowned. Joel’s is a pilgrimage, seeking answers to doubts and guilt about their friendship and the motivations and circumstances of the death, seeking release from grief in atonement and resolution.
The novel traces the lives of the two men in Homeric journeys conducted largely in Joel’s dream-world conversations with spirit visitations from his past. Over all is the presence of a foreboding inaccessible rock of an islet, Khímaera, Aidan’s destination when he drowned—a fateful mythic monster, a chimeric illusion. The extraordinary, intertwined, sometimes ambiguous lives of these two men are compelling stories, spanning much of the twentieth century: childhoods in England and New England; frontline soldiers in World War II; Greece with its civil war, its cruelties, its beauty, its crass materialism; brief years in US government service; rebellious, seeking alternative lives in Italy, England, in the US and Canada, in Greece; lives of tragic loves—and, in the end, of profound reward.
Fateful, Odyssean stories, their resolutions evolve from a despairing elegiac dream-world into hopeful reality. Stories told in haunting, poetic prose, a unique style acclaimed in Cabot’s earlier novels.
"Robert Cabot’s masterful The Isle of Khería interrogates the past, that mysterious land, which always beckons in the distance. Can we ever really know it, or the people who come in and out of our lives? Is it only after we lose someone that we finally, perhaps too late, consider that person's character and story? Reminiscent of Fowles' The Magus, Davies' The Manticore, and Kazantzakis' Zorba, Cabot weaves narratives of Greece’s past and present with the gossamer threads of his prose. His descriptions of the natural world are spellbinding—the piping of the goatherd, the spittle bugs on the golden rod—and one of the joys of reading this book." —Eric Utne, author, founder of Utne Reader
"Some readers may shy away from Robert Cabot’s choppy, cursory, incomplete writing style, but I recommend leaping onto its back. Ride unsaddled by conventional dialogue and creaking exposition! Gallop away, greedy for each lyrical phrase and evocative scene within its pages. See, smell, feel – no, revel in the exhilaration that is The Isle of Kheria – a tribute to a friendship spanning most of the twentieth century, from World War II and Vietnam to the seven-year Junta in Greece and the counterculture of the sixties and later. The friendship between staid Joel Brewster and flamboyant Aidan Allard, notable mostly for awkward reunions after long separations, begins in college. It ends with Joel visiting Aidan’s grave on a barren hillside surrounded by “dry stalks of asphodel – kheria, candles to the dead, the islanders say.” At the grave, Joel is visited by the shades of Aidan and the women they have known – mothers, wives, daughters – who bare their souls, bear witness to the secrets they withheld from each other, the opportunities they missed. A poignant touch: photos of the two tokens that symbolize Joel’s opposing loves serve as motifs to preface the three partitions of The Isle of Kheria. An enthralling read." Historical Novel Society
"The Isle of Kheria transmutes the leaden horrors of the 20th century into elegiac gold dust. I'm left with that hushed fragile feeling that comes from stirring up rarely experienced emotions. A story crafted of myriad glimpses of an intimate world, poetic literary pointillism. A masterpiece." – Robert Fuller, former president Oberlin College, best-selling author of Somebodies and Nobodies
"This powerful story of life-long friendship between two men is alive with vibrant details, and told in an extraordinarily musical, sonorous, evocative voice. Cabot puts his characters against a rich background of human striving and natural tumult. He fearlessly shows how a loving man can be powerless to save his best friend, or anyone, from his own fatal search for a mystical answer to the soul's questions." Susan Cheever, novelist, biographer
"In 1989 Robert Cabot heard the terrible news that his best friend, the writer and Hellenophile Kevin Andrews had drowned in wild seas off a remote Greek Island. More than two decades after this tragedy Cabot has with rich, honest prose conjured up an extraordinary book that merges biography, legend and myth to recreate and continue loves, lives and conversations. A host of characters, real and imaginary join in the Homeric discourse as Cabot leads us a merry dance from idyllic childhood to the horrors and inanities of war, from the forgotten battles of the Aleutian islands campaign to Northern Italy, the Ardennes and the crossing of the Rhine. Suddenly we are in peacetime and the mysteries of sexuality, delicately exploring love and dreams in prose as stunning as the Aegean light. We tumble through the cold war, marriage, children and separation, Vietnam, the colonels in Greece, the counterculture, the madness of consumption and the search for material wealth. Traversing this turbulant landscape we are comforted by the tenderness of love of one man for another until finally there is peace, a resolution of grief, and the glimpse of a hopeful future. —Roger Jinkinson , author of American Ikaros: The Search for Kevin Andrews
"Cabot’s latest (after That Sweetest Wine) follows the decades-long peregrinations of Joel Brewster and Aidan Allard through college, the battlefields of WWII, the Greek civil war, memory, hopes, and the fraught landscape of the heart. Still reeling from his wife’s death, Joel—now living in Canada—hears of Aidan’s tragic drowning off the coast of his adopted home of Khería in the Aegean Sea and decides to travel there to uncover the truth behind his death. During his journey, the history of their relationship is told through the points of view of characters living and dead, making for a rich—though often baffling—portrait of a complicated friendship." -- Publishers Weekly
"When those close to you in life leave it forever, it can be difficult to shoulder the burden. The Isle of Kheria is a novel chronicling the burden of Joel Brewster, mourning the loss of his wife and suspecting that his closest friend chose suicide by drowning. Looking for grace and something that matters in his life, Joel goes to Kheria and finds much change in the matter. The Isle of Kheria is a strong addition to general fiction collections." -- Midwest Book Review