One of the things I like most about visiting independent bookstores is that the people who work in them tend not only to be very knowledgeable about the content of their stores but also to be much more friendly than their counterparts in the big chains. Case in point, on a recent visit to The Readers’ Forum in Wayne, PA, I happened to overhear a customer ask my friend Ed Luoma if he had a children’s book that would help her explain diabetes to her non-diabetic grandchildren. Without missing a beat, Ed told her that he had the perfect book for her and led her straight to it. If that’s not expertise, I don’t know what is.
On a separate occasion, I was talking with Ed about the literary offerings of independent presses, and he recommended Wing Walking by Harry Groome (Connelly Press, 2007). I’d seen the book on his shelves as I perused the store on previous visits, but I always assumed it was from one of the bigger publishing houses. Subtle and understated, the light blue cover looks very much like that of Don DeLillo’s Falling Man. Assured by Ed (whose own novel, Without Knowing It, is quite exceptional) that Wing Walking was a good read, I had no doubt that I was in for a treat.
Despite its title, Wing Walking is not about the airline industry. Rather, it’s about the pharmaceutical industry, and the title refers to the dangerous nature of attempting a corporate merger in the apparent snake pit that industry tends to be. Starting with the basic premise that there is no separating business concerns from personal relationships, the novel goes on to explore the myriad complications involved in attempting to juggle issues pertaining to family, friendship, profits, corporate responsibility, the concerns of shareholders and (in some cases) the national economy.
In a lesser writer’s hands, many of the issues touched upon in Wing Walking might make for a dull, textbook read, but Groome brings them to life vividly. His characters are strong, and their motives are complex: despite insisting that the balance sheet is all that matters, none of them can help succumbing to ego and giving into more personal urges as they simultaneously fend off hostile advances and plot to stab each other in the back. In many ways, this is the stuff of Shakespearean drama, and I must admit that I haven’t cared this much about the comings and goings of the obscenely rich since Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full.
At just over 200 pages, Wing Walking is a quick and engaging read, a perfect book to take along on a long flight or to pass the hours on a rainy afternoon. To purchase Wing Walking, visit The Readers’ Forum online at Readers-Forum.com or in the flesh at 116 N. Wayne Avenue, Wayne, PA 19087. Alternately, visit the author at HarryGroome.com.