Clotho’s Loom: Weighty, Amusing, Mysterious, Difficult To Put Down

by Rachel Creager Ireland

Clotho's Loom Cover

Sometimes a book is so weighty, and the ideas it contains so huge, that it’s hard to discuss. It would be like writing a blog post on world politics, or oceanography. It’s been two weeks since I finished Clotho’s Loom, and I don’t even know where to start writing about it. I’ll be honest, Shawn St. Jean and I are trading reviews of each others’ books, but I really was impressed by it and want to do it justice. (Besides, I read an excerpt before I agreed to read the whole thing, so I could tell it would be worth reading. Even so, I would never promise a positive review, only an honest one, which is what I would expect from any other author reading my own work.)

I guess I’ll start at the beginning. Will Wyrd has just turned 39, and he finds himself called inexplicably to military service, twenty years after his brief stint as a Marine. He has no taste for war, and his politics lean toward the liberal, in a wishy-washy way. He’s out of shape and a college professor. Certain that a mistake has been made, he reports to an anonymous office building to clear it up. Instead, he is given a date to report for duty, and instructed to tell his wife, Nexus, that he is enlisting by choice, rather than being conscripted.

I found the scenario amusing, the more so because the author himself is a college professor. I imagined the author was writing about himself, and not portraying himself in a particularly heroic way. But, interestingly, the point of view shifts between Will and Nexus, and St. Jean writes equally well about Will’s ambitious lawyer wife. Nexus struggles with Will’s obvious distraction, with navigating the maze of office politics, and with making the best choices for her unborn baby.

Clotho’s Loom isn’t light reading. We get a detailed look inside the minds of the two protagonists. Layers of complexity shift and dance. Is this an allegory of modern life? Is it a comment on modern relationships, or upon the inner masculine and feminine? Is the story absurd, or simple realism? It seems to be all these at once.

What can we glean, then about modern relationships? Will and Nexus are faithful to one another; they love one another; they care about each others’ needs; they have what most would consider a stable and healthy marriage. Yet there is a gap in their communication. They don’t appear to have other close relationships; they seemingly function as discrete bodies. Why doesn’t Will tell Nexus he’s going to go away? At the center of this choice is his late father, a veteran of Viet Nam. The man-to-man relationship takes priority over the marriage of a man and a woman. Even as Will struggles against the evaporation of other choices, he fails to make choices in his marriage, and this I found most troubling.

Nexus is left alone; but others step in and help. Some have ulterior motives; some appear to have greater-than-normal abilities. Who are these people taking such interest in an ordinary single mom-to-be? The various people who enter Nexus’s world are real and compelling, even as they are shown to be mysterious and perhaps supernatural. I didn’t quite get enough answers about some of the characters in Nexus’s story. Though I don’t think a book should have to answer every question, the mystery didn’t lead to greater depth; it just felt like either loose ends, or there was something I was supposed to get but didn’t.

Adding to the mystery, Will spends much of the latter half of the book in a series of vivid hallucinations. Just how much of what he experiences is real, we don’t know. The action in both stories accelerates, and as things heat up (heh heh- pun you won’t get until you read it),  the book becomes difficult to put down.

There’s so much more to this book. The geopolitics; the military as bureaucracy and tyrant; the ethics of war. But it’s late and if you’re willing to read another seven hundred words, you might as well just get the whole book and read it yourself. It’s really worth it. Most compelling and absorbing book I’ve read in a long time.