cover image Aurora 7 CL

Aurora 7 CL

Thomas Mallon. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $18.95 (238pp) ISBN 978-0-89919-938-2

Astronaut Scott Carpenter's triple orbit around the earth on May 24, 1962, is the launching point for this audacious novel. Its hero, fifth-grader Gregory Noonan, obsessed with outer space, plays hooky and hops a train to New York City's Grand Central Station to join crowds awaiting news of the astronaut, who loses radio contact with Cape Canaveral during his perilous reentry. Other characters in star-struck Gregory's orbit are his anxious, squarish parents; his nerdy best friend; and his Irish grandmother. Using an omniscient narrative voice, novelist Mallon ( Arts and Sciences ) interweaves other lives--those of a highly sexed young priest, a snooty writer who's just dumped her husband, a Puerto Rican high school dropout desperately seeking a job, a New York cabbie, etc.--to show what effect Carpenter's historic flight has--or does not have--on each personal trajectory. Period detail is enhanced by walk-ons by JFK, Walter Cronkite, LBJ. The cumulative effect is exhilarating. Mallon also wrote Stolen Words , a study of plagiarism. (Jan.)