The premise Great Barrington resident Aaron Thier's newest novel, "Mr. Eternity," is that two young men, bored and seeking adventure, agree to travel from New York City to Key West to film a documentary about a very enigmatic man, Daniel Defoe, reputed to be 560 years old at the time of their arrival in 2016.
The young men have no idea how to begin their film, but as they get to know the strange character, who agrees to be interviewed if the two boys will help him with "some digging," his very pointed and surprisingly off-beat, yet always revelatory commentary and suggestions, provides all the inspiration they need.
Thier takes the reader on the many adventures lived in the ancient man's life — both in centuries before and in centuries far into the future. The world as Daniel Defoe knows it is interpreted by colorful and effective characters from the past, present, and future in a free-flowing journey through time in any direction.
The chapters are often short, sometimes five or six pages, which makes for a speedy trip and a delightfully disorienting adventure in time. But the story remains true and clear to Daniel Defoe's consciousness, fractions of his life story, and his quest to find the love of his life, Anna Gloria, who he only saw once, and then fleetingly thereafter. Above all else, the search for this woman of his dreams is apparently the thing Daniel Defoe cares most about in his extraordinarily long lifespan thus far.
The novel consists of snapshots — like chapters from a variety of characters over hundreds of years of time, alternating between the years 1560, 1750, 2016, 2200, and 2500. There are years of environmental disaster, political confusion, scientific blundering, all inhabited by the ever-searching individual characters who are struggling with meaning. In the end, they find that life is made up of singular graces and moments of magic as found in love and wonder.
In this novel, linking each character in the profit of this wisdom, is the eternal Daniel Defoe.
"Our story is very simple," reflects one of the young film makers, toward the end of the book. "It's a subplot. It's a story told again and again, so many times that it doesn't need to be told at all. It only needs to be gestured at while the main plot moves forward ... There's no room for worrying about what comes next.
"We just fall in love, that's our story."
The wonder of this novel is how we get that after so many characters weigh in on their respective worlds. No matter what happens, experience is all interpretation and what matters is right here and now.
"We learn by getting older," Daniel Defoe says, and this learning is repeated generation after generation.
Colin Harrington is the Events Manager at The Bookstore and Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox, Mass. Colin welcomes reader comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
"Mr. Eternity" by Aaron Thier
Published by: Bloomsbury Press, 2016