The Sky Was Ours: A Novel (Paperback)

The Sky Was Ours: A Novel By Joe Fassler Cover Image
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“An immersive fever dream of a novel, beautifully written and boldly imagined.” —Leslie Jamison, New York Times bestselling author of The Empathy Exams

From prizewinning writer Joe Fassler comes a brilliant modern reimagining of the myth of Daedalus and Icarus as a story of obsession, longing, and the radical pursuit of utopia

It’s 2005, and 24-year-old Jane is miserable. Overworked, buried in debt, she senses the life she wanted slipping away—while the world around her veers badly off course, hurtling toward economic and ecological collapse. She wants to find something better. But she has no idea where to start. 

In a sudden and unprecedented burst of rebellion, Jane decides to abandon everything she knows, leaving behind her relationships and responsibilities to go on the road. That’s how she meets Barry, a brilliant and charismatic recluse living on an isolated homestead near New York’s Canadian border. For years, in secret, Barry’s chased an unlikely obsession: to build a pair of wings humans can fly in, with designs inspired by an obscure precursor to the Wright Brothers. It’s no mere hobby. He’s convinced his dream of flight will spark a revolution, delivering us from the degradation of modern capitalism and the climate chaos that awaits us. 

Jane is captivated by Barry’s radical vision, even as his experiments become more dangerous. But she’s equally drawn to the enigmatic Ike, Barry’s gentle, thoughtful son, who’s known no other reality—and who only wants to keep his father alive, tethered to ground and to reason. 

So begins an inventive, dazzlingly beautiful story about the human desire for transcendence—our longing to escape the mundane and glide into a euphoric future. Inspired by the myth of Daedalus and Icarus, The Sky Was Ours is a powerful and imaginative debut that explores the question: If you had access to technology that allowed you to escape the confines of your life, would you use it? And if Barry’s wings really could change the world, would that be freedom?

About the Author

Joe Fassler is a writer and editor based in Denver, Colorado. He is an MFA graduate of the  Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and his fiction has appeared in The Boston Review and Electric Literature. In 2013, Fassler started The Atlantic’s “By Heart” series, in which he interviewed authors—including Stephen King, Elizabeth Gilbert, Amy Tan, Khaled Hosseini, Carmen Maria Machado, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and more—about the literature that shaped their lives and work. That led to editing Light the Dark, a book-length collection that included favorites from “By Heart” alongside new contributions. Fassler’s nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Guardian, Longreads, and The Best American Food Writing. Fassler currently teaches writing at Vermont’s Sterling College. The Sky Was Ours is his first novel.

Praise For…

Praise for The Sky Was Ours
“This reimagining of the myth of Daedalus and Icarus follows a 24-year-old woman longing to find a better life—a quest that leads her to meet a man building a set of wings designed for human flight.”

The Sky Was Ours is an immersive fever dream of a novel, beautifully written and boldly imagined. It’s a dark fairy tale with a gripping human pulse; attuned to global crisis but also rooted deeply in the psyches of its characters, animated by their grief and most of all by their longing—longing for wonder, escape, transcendence, hope for our profit-rotted world; a longing that soars through these pages with an energy and tenderness utterly its own.” 
—Leslie Jamison, New York Times bestselling author of The Empathy Exams

“A fascinating account of, among other things, how the American default to individual action undermines the collective force we must gather to deal with our perilous moment. A very American Icarus!”
—Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

“Humane, cinematic, and unstinting in wonder, Fassler’s debut—a captivating tale of freedom and disenchantment—asks nothing less than what it might mean to live an uncompromised life in a terribly compromised world. It is a beautiful achievement.”
—Hermione Hoby, author of Virtue

“With energy and insight, The Sky Was Ours probes the twin dreams of human flight and freedom from fossil fuels, following a trio of loners as they strive to bring a new world into existence. In rich, evocative prose, Fassler evokes a sky-wide canvas of emotions: exhilaration, love, greed, grief, and the yearning for transcendence. Bittersweet, life-affirming, and unforgettable.”
—Kyle McCarthy, author of Everyone Knows How Much I Love You

“Fassler’s novel is about lonely, dented humans and how our thirst for naked awe can save us, or doom us. It’s beautiful, truly kind, an ode to transcendent obsession, and reading it put me in a trance.”
—Rebecca Rukeyser, author of The Seaplane on Final Approach
“Infused with wonder and keen insight onto our shared world, Fassler has crafted a tender, questing ode to impossible dreams, and to the fragile but very real possibilities they open up in us. Rooted in our era of climate crisis and disillusionment but reaching out for something liberatory, it’s the rare book that serves as both a provocation and a balm.”
—Alexandra Kleeman, author of Something New Under the Sun
“Joe Fassler’s The Sky Was Ours is a potent, prescient, and tremendously moving novel—a book written with genuine love for its characters, for myth, and for our very world itself. A wholly engrossing debut.”
—Alexander Maksik, author of The Long Corner

“Fassler’s prose is dazzling, alive, peppered with rich metaphors . . . A thrilling, hopeful retelling of the myth of Daedalus and Icarus.”

“With its soupçon of magical realism, Fassler’s intriguing novel is beautifully written—books’ many-colored spines are like ‘a rainbow put through a paper shredder.’ This is a book that invites deliberation, as further evidenced by the included discussion guide.”
Booklist (starred review)
“The dream of flight enthralls an aimless young woman in Fassler’s stunning debut. . . . Fassler’s audacious premise is buoyed by pristine prose and vibrant characterizations. The result is a captivating fairy tale of the slippery line between fanatic and genius.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Product Details
ISBN: 9780143135685
ISBN-10: 0143135686
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: April 23rd, 2024
Pages: 464
Language: English