Going to the Sun

James McManus




Trade Paperback

352 Pages



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Winner of the Carl Sandburg Award

When Penelope Culligan embarks on a cross-country bicycle trip to Alaska, the site of her life's defining tragedy seven years before, she hopes that the pilgrimage will serve as an emancipation—from her incapacitating memories, as well as from her deteriorating health. Incapable of emotional or sexual intimacy, she meets Ndele Rimes, who is either the perfect catch or the perfect murderer, and discovers that neither her newfound freedom nor her carefully constructed defenses have any application out on the open road.


Praise for Going to the Sun

"A long, Americanized gloss on Beckett . . . Brilliant, funny and sometimes harrowing."—The New York Times Book Review

"Vibrant, original, and keenly interesting at every level. Penny is Huck Finn after grad school, on her bike instead of the raft, but still traveling in search of liberation. Her coolly intelligent voice, the acute observation of the landscape through which she travels, and her pitiless detailing of the routine struggles of a diabetic are each perfect in their ways. This is a first-rate novel."—Scott Turow

"If the Pequod had dropped anchor in Tahiti during its pursuit of Moby Dock, would Ahab have called off his fatal quest? Probably not. Only if the grass-skirted maidens there somehow matched the emotional impact of the beast that has mauled him. McManus creates exactly this combination of menace and allure in the person of Ndele Rimes . . . McManus isn't really a horror writer. His strengths, rather, are in voices, crowded scenes that spin out of control, observation of the road, and edgy comedy of manners."—Los Angeles Times

"As Penny pedals along with Beckett, her beloved invisible companion, her joy in shaping her mission is palpable (McManus gets the voice just right). He manages a delicate balance between Penny's meditations and episodes on the road . . . McManus takes big risks here. He sets off his fireworks at the start; furthermore, the problems of a blocked Ph.D. candidate are not guaranteed to get the heart racing. Yet, against the odds, he succeeds; his portrait of a gutsy lady dueling with death is both exhilarating and moving."—The Washington Post Book World

"The admirably edgy energy that runs through James McManus's five previous books is a kind of signature. But in Going to the Sun there seems to be a special urgency about his writing that powerfully portrays the consciousness of his diabetic central character, Penny Culligan; it's an urgency capable of conveying not only her cross-country flight but the very spikes and plunges of sugar in her blood. It's an urgency that is finally a measure of the deep compassion in this intense novel."—Stuart Dybek, author of I Sailed with Magellan

"Absolutely spellbinding . . . seldom have I read a novel that succeeds on so many levels as this one does."—Chicago Sun-Times

"A road novel with a difference . . . An absorbing, heart-tugging story."—Newsday

"Exquisitely crafted, heart-wrenching."—Chicago Tribune

"Fluid and captivating, filled with disturbing insight . . . grotesque and powerful. Penny is an extremely captivating character . . . Scenes of love and desire, life and death, identity and disguise constantly unfold . . . McManus has created one of the most engaging heroines of the year out of a multitude of everyday details and his sharp insight into the soul of a brilliant and deeply disturbed young woman."—Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered, National Public Radio

"An extraordinary work. McManus's precise treatment of physical love and chronic illness are simple and powerful."—Anchee Min

"Perhaps the most compelling elements of this beautiful novel are McManus's ability to write in a woman's voice and his descriptions of being diabetic . . . Going to the Sun is a meditative road story, but it is more profound and more intimate . . . McManus proves that he is both a gifted wordsmith and a great storyteller. Going to the Sun is chilling and riveting; this story will haunt you long after you have put it down."—Chicago Books in Review

"Reversing the role of her Homeric namesake, Penelope sets off on a 3000-mile odyssey . . . An acute observer of the detritus of North American culture . . . A tour de force account of trauma, disability, the triumphs and limits of the human spirit . . . and the bleak meta-physics of a savage and meaningless universe."—The Boston Phoenix

"One woman's amazing journey, a novel of search and discovery . . . with nuance, detail, and
cf0wonderful dialogue . . . full of sensuality, humor, and vibrant life."—Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Poet and novelist McManus makes interesting use of Beckett. Relating his obsession with physical decay to Penny's diabetes, but ultimately this novel could not be more American . . . Penny's narrative—by turns lyrical, pissed off, and longing—is a triumph."—Publishers Weekly

"A well-crafted tale of grief, introspection, and courage."—Booklist

"With lyrical precision and solid, unpredictable storytelling, McManus—a poet and novelist who displays here the skills of both genres—creates a contemporary picaresque . . . It's a strong storyteller who can bring so elliptically to a close such an emotionally affecting tale—which is exactly what the sensitive and talented McManus manages to do."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



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James McManus is a novelist and poet, most recently winner of the Peter Lisagor Award for sports journalism. He teaches writing and comparative literature at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, including a course on the literature and science of poker.
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  • James McManus

  • James McManus is the author of four novels, as well as Positively Fifth Street. In 2001 he received the Peter Lisagor Award for sports journalism. His writing appears in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Esquire, Chicago, and Harper's, and has been widely anthologized. He teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, including a course on the literature and science of poker.
  • James McManus Copyright Aynsley Floyd
    James McManus