Honorable Mention for Literary Excellence
Four centuries after the Reformation Pilgrims sailed up the down-flowing watersheds of New England, Taylor Thatcher, irreverent scion of a fallen family of Maine Puritans, is still caught in the turbulence. In his errant attempts to escape from history, the young college professor is further unsettled by his growing attraction to Israeli student Miryam Bluehm as he is swept by Time through the “family thing” – from the tangled genetic and religious history of his New England parents to the redemptive birthday secret of Esther Fleur Noire Bishop, the Cajun-Passamaquoddy woman who raised him and his younger half-cousin/half-brother, Bingham. The landscapes, rivers, and tidal estuaries of Old New England and the Mayan Yucatan are also casualties of history in Thatcher’s story of Deep Time and re-discovery of family on Columbus Day at a high-stakes gambling casino, rising in resurrection over the starlit bones of a once-vanquished Pequot Indian Tribe.
About the Author
Peter Matthiessen Wheelwright is a writer, educator, and architect. He is a Professor Emeritus at The New School, Parsons School of in New York City where he taught design and wrote on matters of the environment in both the built and natural worlds.
His architectural work has been widely published, and "The Kaleidoscope House", a modernist dollhouse designed in collaboration with the artist Laurie Simmons, is in the Collection of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art.
He comes from a family of writers, naturalists, and architects. His uncle and namesake is the late three-time National Book Award recipient,Peter Matthiessen.
Reviews & Interviews:
“As It Is On Earth is a spiritual coming of age story of NewEngland bred,Taylor Thatcher who, along with his younger brother, Bingham, has been shaped by the secrets, grievances and betrayals that are worthy of the name family. Far from being a by the numbers chronicle of sibling rivalry and family dysfunction, Peter M. Wheelwright's richly layered tale can be read as a contemporary rendering of the Cain and Abel story and Bunyan'sPilgrim's Progress. The Thatcher brothers carry the mark of familial transgressions and embark upon a journey taking them away from their Puritan origins to the otherness of the Yucatan and back again. Refusing the consolations of a celestial resolution, Wheelwright leaves the reader with a vision of the unrelenting birthpangs of life 'as it is on earth'.”
– Wesley Brown, author of Darktown Strutters and Life During Wartime
“One of the deep pleasures in reading Peter Wheelwright’s gorgeous debut novel As It Is On Earth comes from the dizzying journey through the constellations of his protagonist’s life as he attempts to untangle the Gordian knot of his family legacy. His world is messy and contradictory, saturated with desire and utterly intoxicating; it’s a place where ideas about science and art and nature and history combust until secrets are laid bare. As in the best of novels, Wheelwright both broke my heart and gave me great faith in acts of forgiveness and in the tenderness of our hearts.”
–Lisa Fugard, author of Skinner's Drift
“As It Is On Earth may be situated in New England with sojourns to Mexico, but its true territory is the topography of family life with all its obscure borders. Positioned at the moment when one millennium becomes another, Wheelwright’s powerful narrative of two brothers looks to all those ways history and landscape give shape to our lives; and to all those forces, both intimate and universal, that bring us together and drive us apart.”
– Akiko Busch, author of Nine Ways to Cross a River: Midstream Reflections on Swimming and Getting There from Here
“Peter Wheelwright’s tale is full of mystery and family transgression, anecdote and the oddest facts imaginable, a tale of despair shot through with unexpected wonder. Wheelwright’s oddball cast of dreamers and alcoholic holy men, stargazers and crack mystics, naturalists and sidetracked philosophers, will linger in the readers imagination long after the last page.”
– Andrea Barnet, author of All-Night Party: The Women of Bohemian Greenwich Village and Harlem, 1913-1930
“…lovely, meditative, and thoughtful; Wheelwright is fearless with jargon and diction...compulsively readable.”
– The Brooklyn Rail
A family wound is at the center of As It Is On Earth. Peter Wheelwright is a natural born writer with a scholar's deep thoughtfulness and a gift for seeing the links, often obscure, elusive, and contradictory, that connect and hold one generation fast to another."
– Alec Wilkinson, author of The Ice Balloon
"There is no lack of ambition or artistry in Peter Wheelwright's As It Is On Earth, a complex tapestry of the collisions between civilization and nature, and science and religion, among other minor topics. But its heart is "the family thing", and the pleasure of this book is watching Wheelwright's sensitive and skeptical protagonist unravel decades of secrets and lies. A remarkable debut."
– Helen Schulman, author of This Beautiful Life
"With a Yankee tap root breaking through layers of granite guilt and miscegenation, Taylor Thatchers' family tree is a challenging climb. From its branches overlooking New England's old farms and old colleges, author Peter Wheelwright peers compassionately at a world inhabited by young survivors of extinct tribes and inherited griefs. Fascinating and absorbing and forgiving."
"Unlike his character Miryam, whose photographs of absent bridges depict only the supporting embankments that connect two sides of the earth, Peter Wheelwright, in this rich and moving debut, attempts to fill in those ghostly, empty polarities of space and time that we call family history — and, in the doing, offers up a bit of America's history, as well. Like a great bridge-builder, Wheelwright connects past and present, choices and consequences, hope and despair, fantasy and reality, all the while, like Miryam's sturdy embankments, remaining anchored firmly into the land. A masterful balancing act; a beautiful, unpretentious, elegiac novel."
–Joseph Salvatore, author of To Assume A Pleasing Shape