Gentlemen of Space by Ira Sher

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Gentlemen of Space

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Ira Sher’s unique first novel is an excursion into the area where reality and illusion meet. Although at the end of the novel one is left uncertain as to whether or not the young narrator actually communicated with his missing father, what has been made evident is the power of the imagination to transform everyday life.

Gentlemen of Space is set in the summer of 1976 in the small suburban community of Magnolia Court, Florida. The narrator of the novel is nine-year-old Georgie Finch, whose father Jerry, an eccentric junior high school science teacher, has been selected by NASA to be the first civilian to set foot on the moon. Georgie is ecstatic, for now the world will see Jerry as the exceptional man that his son always believed him to be. However, Georgie’s down-to-earth mother Barbara remains unimpressed by her husband’s achievements, and when she learns that he has impregnated their teenage babysitter Angie, she begins to dread his return.

However, after the moon-landing, Jerry disappears, and the spacecraft has to return to Earth without him. Now well-wishers, journalists, and politicians begin keeping a vigil at Magnolia Court, waiting for Jerry’s return. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin appear in their spacesuits, which they have sworn not to remove until Jerry is back home. However, Jerry’s only contact with Earth is through periodic telephone calls to Georgie, the only person on the planet who can comprehend his feelings for the moon.

Although no one believes Georgie, even Jerry’s most devoted fans have to admit the fact of his infidelity with Angie. Turning against him, they transfer their allegiance to Barbara, besieging her until she becomes a recluse. This haunting story is presented as the adult Georgie’s attempt to separate fact from fiction or perhaps simply to demonstrate that in a mysterious universe the two will always remain intertwined.