We Own the Sky with Luke Allnutt
Rob Coates feels like he’s won the lottery of life. There is Anna, his incredible wife, their London town house and, most precious of all, Jack, their son, who makes every day an extraordinary adventure. But when a devastating illness befalls his family, Rob’s world begins to unravel. Suddenly finding himself alone, Rob seeks solace in photographing the skyscrapers and clifftops he and his son Jack used to visit. And just when it seems that all hope is lost, Rob embarks on the most unforgettable of journeys to find his way back to life, and forgiveness.
We Own the Sky is a tender, heartrending, but ultimately life-affirming novel that will resonate deeply with anyone who has suffered loss or experienced great love. With stunning eloquence and acumen, Luke Allnutt has penned a soaring debut and a true testament to the power of love, showing how even the most thoroughly broken heart can learn to beat again.
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Luke Allnutt grew up in the U.K. and lives and works in Prague.
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As the summer went on, our friends gradually left. They went off traveling: backpacking in Australia, a camper van across South America. While I felt a pang of regret when they left, a sense that I was missing out on something, Anna and I were both agreed that traveling wasn’t for us. We hadn’t gone to Cambridge just to piss it all away “finding ourselves” somewhere in the Andes. Besides, I had my maps to think about, the software I was writing, the company I wanted to start.
The real reason, though, was that we didn’t want to be apart. We were inseparable, like love-struck teens whose parents and friends can see are headed for a fall. Whenever we tried to spend just one night alone in our own rooms, we were miserable and antsy. We broke, usually within an hour. There was a line in an old Blur song that we both liked: collapsed in love. And that was what had happened. We collapsed in love.
People thought Anna was closed, a cold fish, but she wasn’t like that with me. One evening, without probing, she told me about her life in Kenya and her missionary parents. In these careful, considered sentences, she talked about her father, his affairs, his estrangement from the church. She talked about her mother: how she would not accept her father’s wrongdoing; how she channeled her love into her good works.
It was like a flood, an epiphany, to find out that this person that I thought was so guarded actually lay entirely open, exposed, and the one she wanted to let in was not her father, or Lola, or one of her housemates, but me.
The sun was getting hotter, and we sat on the wall drinking some water that Anna had brought in a thermos.
“Do you want to go and play squash again?”
“No,” Anna said. “I think I’ve humiliated myself enough today.”
“I enjoyed it.”
“Yes,” she said, “I’m sure you did.”
“You do look very cute in your shorts.”
She smiled and dug me gently in the ribs. “God, it’s hot, isn’t it,” Anna said, wiping her brow.
The momentary respite of breeze had gone and it felt like it was 100 degrees. “We could go in the shade over there?” I said, pointing to an awning on the other side of the field.
Anna looked up. “We could, but we’d have to cross the field,” she said. “And look.”
We hadn’t noticed before, but a group of animals—adults in furry suits—had joined the children on the field. A lion, a tiger, a panda, they looked like the grubby leftovers from a Disney parade. There was some kind of awards ceremony, and the children were waiting in line for their prizes.
“What are they doing?” Anna asked.
“Getting medals, I think.”
“Right, I get that, but why the animals?”
I shrugged and Anna squinted, trying to get a better view.
“I don’t like the look of them,” Anna said.
“The animals or the children?”
I looked over at them. In a certain light, they did look quite sinister, their furry mouths locked into perma-smiles.
“There’s a lot of them,” I said.
“Indeed,” Anna said warily.
“Shall we risk it then?” I said, getting up off the wall.
“No,” Anna said indignantly. “We can’t just run across the field, Rob. It’s some kind of school function.”
“We’re not going to get arrested.”
“We might,” she said.
“Well, I’m going,” I said, looking back, expecting her to follow “It’s better than sitting here and dying in the sun.” I started running across the pitch, but Anna stayed on the touchline, looking sheepish, as if she was gathering the courage to jump into a swimming pool.
Now safely in the shade on the other side, I waved at her to come across and she cautiously started to move. In an attempt to appear less conspicuous, she decided to walk, but there was something about her nervousness that made her stand out. The master of ceremonies on the microphone stopped talking, and the heads of the children, the parents and the animals all turned to stare at Anna.
She smiled politely, aware that all eyes were on her, and then broke into a hurried little trot. In her gym shorts and blouse, she could have passed for a teenager, which was probably why a large orange tiger intercepted her in the center circle, linked arms and then dragged her into the line of children. I started to laugh, thinking she would make a break for it, but Anna—polite, diligent Anna—stayed in line, waiting for her prize.
After receiving her medal, Anna had to walk down a greeting line of animals. Even from here, I could see the flicker of fear on her face. With her medal round her neck, she moved down the line, embracing each animal one by one. Despite the animals’ advances, Anna didn’t hug back. She even pulled away when a bear tried to rest its head on her neck.
When it was all over, when the children had gone to greet their proud parents, Anna walked sheepishly back to where I was standing in the shade, her cheeks bright red, little bits of animal fur stuck to her blouse.
“Oh my God,” I said, still laughing. “What were you doing?”
Anna started to giggle and wiped the sweat off her brow. “I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. The tiger cornered me.”
“Why didn’t you just leave?” I said, handing her the thermos of water.
“I don’t know. I was in the line and then…it was too late… Stop laughing,” she said, frowning at me. “It’s not funny.”
“Well, maybe a bit. And anyway, it’s your fault.”
“For making me cross that pitch. You’re an absolute idiot,” she said, sipping the water. “It’s literally my worst nightmare. Being hugged in public.”
“And by animals.”
We sat for a moment, cooling off in the shade, and I knew then that I couldn’t possibly love her any more. Anna was never afraid to laugh at herself. And I knew that for as long as I lived, I would never forget the reprimanding look she gave to the overly frisky bear.
Excerpt tour for WE OWN THE SKY:
Monday, March 12th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Tuesday, March 13th: What is That Book About
Wednesday, March 14th: The Romance Dish
Thursday, March 15th: Create Explore Read
Friday, March 16th: Mama Reads Blog
Monday, March 19th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Tuesday, March 20th: Books & Spoons
Wednesday, March 21st: Cheryl’s Book Nook
Thursday, March 22nd: From the TBR Pile
Friday, March 23rd: Just One More Chapter
Monday, March 26th: Books a la Mode
Tuesday, March 27th: Novel Mom
Wednesday, March 28th: The Sketchy Reader
Thursday, March 29th: A Holland Reads
Friday, March 30th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy