Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr is an epic story. My ARC copy was over 600 pages long. Doerr, who won the Pulitzer Price for All The Light We Cannot See, has woven together the stories of five people in three different times, connected with a sixth story, the ancient Greek story of Cloud Cuckoo Land.
In modern day Idaho we have Zeno, an old man, orphaned at a young age, who was changed by his experience as a POW during the Korean War. Along with Seymour, who has severe autism, lives with his mother who struggles to keep them afloat, befriends a mighty owl, and is passionate about the enviroment.
In Constantinople, before and during the great siege of 1453, we have Anna, a young orphaned girl, who lives with her older sister and embroiders religious articles for clergy. Along with Omeir, who has a severe facial deformity (harelip), is raised by his mother and grandfather, and is an animal whisperer (in his case oxen).
Sometime in the future we have Konstance, who lives with her parents aboard a spaceship that is escaping the dying Earth on its way to colonize another planet.
Finally we have the protagnist of Cloud Cuckoo Land the ancient greek Aethon, who lived 80 years a man, 1 year a donkey, 1 year a sea bass, and 1 year a crow. Aethon dreams of being a bird who can fly up to the utopian Cloud Cuckoo Land.
Well, if that sounds like a lot, it is. Besides the mentioned time frames, we have lots of other times and places that fill in the back stories of our 5 protaganists. It does take a while to get into the story, but Doerr tries to make the movement of time and place easier by carefully labeling the who, when, and where of each section of text. The book reminds me of Cloud Atlas, what seem like disjointed stories come together in the end (very neatly and cleverly).
The book has several themes running through it – family, home, preserving the environment, a longing for knowledge, and dreaming of utopia. Each of the timelines features a library – an ancient abandoned one, a current day one, and a completely digital futuristic one. The book is dedicated to librarians – “For the librarians then, now, and in the years to come.” Doerr definitely shows his love of libraries and the written word. I think this book, which is scheduled to be released in September, will be a popular title.