Eric Micheal Bovim’s AROUND THE SUN is centered on Mark White, the incredibly successful founder of a Washington D.C.-based public relations firm, White & Partners. As the book opens, Mark is on a plane, caught in an unwelcome conversation with his seatmate as his restless mind roams the cabin, thoughts spilling over themselves. It’s quickly apparent that Mark is damaged and incredibly unhappy, self-medicating and running himself ragged as his business takes him around the world solving other people’s problems. The cause of Mark’s depression is clear: His wife, beautiful, talented artist Monica, was killed in a hit-and-run accident, leaving him bereft with their young son Colin to care for.
Bovim takes his time following Mark around his life, which is equal parts luxury (fancy hotels, millions of dollars stockpiled in equity at his firm) and bone-rattling anxiety and exhaustion. The details feel lived-in, and Mark’s own amazement at his continued success adds a nice touch of humanity to what could have been a less interesting corporate superman, as well as underscoring just how out-of-control he is. He neglects his son in favor of endless lunches and phone calls and international flights, he pops too many pills, and drinks too much as he contemplates the company he no longer wants (and only started, despite his wife’s healthy inheritance, in order to give his son everything) and the writing dream he gave up.
Bovim spends a little too much time lounging in Mark’s slow-motion breakdown, however; it’s close to the halfway mark before the breakdown the reader has been anticipating and the PR nightmare it causes hits, and even further into the book before Mark has his Moment of Clarity and begins to dig himself out of the hole. On the one hand, this allows Bovim to paint some fine touches on the character and his world. On the other, a certain repetitiveness sets in as Mark races about, depressed but in denial. Still, there is effective writing here that communicates just how confusing and impossible depression is; Mark is a man so intent on keeping up the facade he doesn’t realize how little he’s actually hiding.
The major flaw of the book is the resolution, which comes far too easily. After building everything to a crisis that threatens everything Mark has, from his sizable (though not as sizable as we might expect) net worth to his relationship with his son, Bovim spends the last third of the novel giving Mark some easy outs that allow him to sail off into a new, more peaceful phase of life with almost absurd ease. That his son, Colin, is never really developed as a character (aside from being obviously traumatized both by his mother’s vanishing and Mark’s inability to deal with it) and yet is the emotional focus for Mark’s character is a lesser problem that still undermines what Bovim is trying to do.
AROUND THE SUN is filled with nicely-observed scenes, and the ease with which a wealthy, educated man can fail upwards is rendered with skill. Mark White is an observant character capable of some wonderful moments of description and self-aware self-loathing that give the story some emotional heft, but the too-easy resolution removes much of the potential emotional impact of the set-up.
AROUND THE SUN is a somber exploration of grief and personal growth that takes a bit too long to get to the crisis point and then pulls its punches at the end.
~Jeff Somers for IndieReader