THE WISDOM OF LOONS is a romance for the ages. Two lonely people find each other at a lake resort and become star-crossed lovers as they chase the meaning of life and discover the mysteries of death . . .
Cal Blevins is starting his life over at 62 years young. Newly divorced after 40 years of marriage and laid off from his job of 22 years, he heads to his fishing lodge on scenic Lake McDowell in the North Georgia mountains to contemplate his future. There he finds a quirky, mysterious woman renting the cabin next door; Lauren Talbot, a history teacher from Tennessee, vacationing with her stroke-addled father, Edgar. Cal, against his better judgment, becomes infatuated with Lauren’s odd charms, and ends up falling head-over-heels for her. Cal is shocked when Lauren reveals she has deep feelings for him as well, telling him that she fell for him the first time she heard him playing his guitar.
Cal and Lauren become inseparable. Early on in their newly-spun relationship, Cal begins experiencing what can only be described as supernatural events. Lauren also experiences happenings she cannot explain. To complicate matters, Edgar’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic.
Cal learns of Edgar’s strange obsession with the loons that populate the lake. Could it be that Lauren’s handicapped father has a special connection with these nocturnal birds? Cal is aware that the Cherokee of the Tsi-s-Qua clan living in South Birdtown have worshiped loons for centuries, but doesn’t know the details of their reverence. Cal takes Lauren and Edgar on a fact-finding trip across the lake to South Birdtown, where the villagers still practice the old ways. While there, they witness a Tsi-s-Qua loon ceremony, a Cherokee ritual so bizarre that it stuns both Cal and Lauren to silence. But none of it seems to faze the old man. To Edgar Talbot, the inexplicable experience in the Cherokee village is as natural as daylight.
Events continue to spiral out of control as Edgar pulls Cal and Lauren into the ways of the loon. Near the end of Cal's and Lauren’s torrid two-week affair, Edgar Talbot commits one final act of desperation that changes all of their lives. The shocking ending is sure to stay with you long after you read the final word.
THE WISDOM OF LOONS is a tale of offbeat romance between two unlikely lovers. But the novel is much more than that. It’s also about love and loss, life and death, comedy and tragedy. It is a story that peeks into the furthest corners of the human heart—both the light, whimsical corners where music and laughter reside, and the dark, shadowy places where our demons run amok.
THE WISDOM OF LOONS
Pub Date: March 2009
Format: Deluxe Trade Paperback, 288 pages
The funny thing about this book is that I don't usually read this kind of stuff. I stick with the action-oriented page-a-minute type of thrillers or classic sci-fi by Edgar Rice Burroughs or Heinlein or horror by H.P. Lovecraft or Rod Serling - you get the picture. This book really expanded my horizons.
To be honest, though, Jeff Dennis' "The Wisdom of Loons" is a lot like Serling - very Twilight Zone-ish. It's really a foray into a surrealist universe peopled by some very down-to-earth types - a guy who just wants to relax with his dog and go fishing, and a woman and her cantankerous father who just want to get away from it all for a while.
Enter Lake McDowell in the mountains of Georgia, where nothing is as it seems. The loons (birds that look like ducks but who can dive underwater like fish), play an integral part in the story of Cal Blevins and his would-be girlfriend, Lauren Talbot (no relation to the Wolfman, Lawrence Talbot - I asked), and Lauren's father, Edgar.
I like Cal because he plays guitar like me. That's how he meets Lauren - she hears him play and falls for him immediately. The same thing happened with my wife. Well, sort of. Anyway, Cal soon learns that Lauren's father had a stroke recently and is a little loony himself when it comes to loons. Edgar not only is obsessed with the birds, he starts making loud, obnoxious bird calls and driving poor Lauren nuts.
Cal tries teaching Edgar some guitar licks, which helps create humor to kind of balance out the ongoing tension between Edgar and Lauren. But Edgar's obsession with the loons goes even deeper - so deep it becomes a mystical experience, such as when the birds fly over the mountain, five at a time, in a perfect "V" several times. What does it mean?
Lauren and Cal fall for each other hard and poor Edgar feels left out, going even further into his own little world, doing crazy things like trashing the cottage and wandering off at night into the forest to find loon eggs. They even meet a few helpful Native Americans along the way, who live in the mountain and help them try to understand the ways of the loon.
Lauren and Cal see and experience a lot of weird, inexplicable things which at first don't make sense. But in the end, it all comes together in a memorable way.
And by memorable, I mean mind-blowing.
This book isn't Dean Koontz and it's not meant to be. It's a love story with supernatural elements that will jerk a few tears, produce a couple of guffaws and maybe even clean some of the cobwebs out of your brain. Above all, though, it's just great storytelling, which is what every novel aspires to be. I highly recommend it, because "Loons" is a unique literary experience.
Toby Tate is the author of DIABLERO, LILITH, GOD PARTICLE, THE BLACK CHURCH, and the Lilitu trilogy. He is also a songwriter and musician and lives with his family near the Great Dismal Swamp in northeastern North Carolina. You can read more about him at www.tobytatestories.com.