“The Road to Sagarmatha” by Adam Wilson. Cover art by Donna Macomber Blackburn. Self-published through Xlibris. Hardcover, 284 pp. Available online through Xlibris.com and other sites. Available at the Edgartown and Aquinnah libraries and soon at Island bookstores.
Adam Wilson is a busy guy. He spent six years working on his first novel and has produced a good read on the popular though tricky theme that the spirit world is real and present in our lives. In “The Road to Sagarmatha,” Mr. Wilson also artfully commingles contrasting perspectives of Buddhist and Judeo-Christian traditions.
He’s pulled it off quite nicely, thanks to a great ear for dialogue, a flair for the everyday whimsy in our lives, and a thorough understanding of the spiritual traditions he’s using in his plot.
Aquinnah’s new town administrator, Mr. Wilson is also an entrepreneur (he founded Adam Cab here), a playwright and now, a novelist, with the recent publication of “The Road to Sagarmatha.” He lives in Oak Bluffs with his wife and two children.
“The Road to Sagarmatha” is a mystery novel on several levels. The story line involves the death of a photographer on a 50th anniversary climb of Mt. Everest, which is located in Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal.
Aaron Temple dies less than 100 feet from the summit while photographing the advance party already on the summit. We spend his final moments with him as oxygen deprivation — and perhaps something sinister — combine to leave his lifeless body under ice and snow, one hand clawing upwards. He joins more than 160 climbers who have surrendered their lives to Everest.
We learn in the book that the native culture requires petitioning Miyolangsangma, one of five sister deities who reside on Everest and provide protection and spiritual sustenance to climbers. In his website notes to the book, Mr. Wilson references the work of the late Joseph Campbell, whose work has famously explained the reality of myths in human life.
In short form, Mr. Campbell, a self-described atheist, argues that myths are real and valuable because humanity creates them out of need to understand this business of living.
One of Mr. Campbell’s concepts, the mono-myth, is detailed in his 1949 book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” The mono-myth is present in every culture and human time, he argued; a corollary of our spiritual hardwiring is that unbidden messengers show up.
Mr. Campbell says “…dangerous messengers begin to appear in the brain.” They are dangerous, Mr. Campbell reasoned, “because they threaten the fabric of security into which we have built ourselves and our families.” But these scary “messengers” also lead us to self-discovery, he says.
An unbidden messenger is precisely the problem facing Hank Longo, a hotel accountant in Orlando and best friend of our deceased photographer. Turns out he is seeing his friend, in mountain gear, on Florida and Connecticut street corners. Hard to miss that image. And Hank can’t forget them.
You can guess the rest. Yup, ol’ Hank has to find his pal’s body so both their spirits can get some rest.
Mt. Everest or bust. It’s a good, entertaining yarn.
If self-discovery is important to you, give Mr. Wilson a shout-out. He’s done most of the Sherpa work, providing digestible explanation of the human need, expressed in different cultures, to understand ourselves.
Here’s mine: Thanks. Good job, buddy.
Mr. Wilson will discuss his book at 5 pm on Tuesday, May 17 at the Aquinnah Library.