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October 15, 2009

By: Feathered Quill Book Reviews  (

It’s strange how a book with such a simple plot, traveling
from California to Pennsylvania for a friend’s funeral, can so
completely draw a reader in. But that’s just what happened
when I picked up Jonathan Slusher’s book Water Landing early
one morning. Intending to read a few chapters before starting
my day, I instead curled up on my sofa and read the whole book.

Luke Kettle lives in California, with a job he doesn’t really like,
an ex-girlfriend that he still thinks about, and not much direction in his life.
When Sara Mead, a friend from high school, dies, Luke is asked by her father
to read a poem at the funeral. Luke agrees and so must travel back East where
he encounters family, old school friends, and Sara’s grieving parents.

Water Landing is written in the first person and the author immediately puts the
reader at ease with a conversational style that flows easily from page to page.
It is as though you are having a casual chat with a good friend over lunch.
Luke occasionally injects comments such as “I have to apologize; you’re
getting to know me at a bad time,” which remind the reader that Luke is talking
to you, not simply putting his thoughts on paper. Luke discusses his own
shortcomings, concerns, and uncertainties about both his relationship with
Sara and those around him.

There are many events in Water Landing that ring true to daily life in their
simplicity and yet the author writes in such a way as to convey the angst and
turmoil through each character’s reaction. When Luke is picked up by his
brother Gabriel at the airport, Gabriel’s girlfriend has come along for the ride
and it quickly becomes apparent that the two are in the midst of a fight. Luke is
caught in the middle and he, and the reader, are uncomfortable on the too long
ride to Gabriel’s apartment. The conversation Luke has with Sara’s father,
about her last days, how she was taken advantage of by the ‘Church on the
Move,’ and how important Luke was to Sara, makes Luke squirm in his chair. Is
Mr. Mead praising or criticizing Luke? As the conversation draws on, it is
apparent that Mr. Mead is fond of Luke and the way he cared for Sara, but
then the father’s overwhelming concern for Luke’s welfare again makes the
young man uncomfortable. Along with Luke, the reader may shuffle in his/her

The title of this book is taken from the many flights Luke takes, both to visit
Sara before her death, as well as to the funeral and after. “In the event of a
water landing,” becomes something of a joke to Luke, but it also refers to his
own personal water landing. Will he find himself before he crash lands? “…I
need to find a new way to gamble on somehow living that life I envisioned. I
need to believe there is still a chance for it.” Luke needs to find purpose in his
life, and Jonathan Slusher has written Water Landing in a way that carries the
reader along on that journey of discovery.

Quill says: A simple, yet compelling look at one man’s journey to finding himself


October 3, 2009
By  Lauri C. Coates (MASCOUTAH, IL United States)

Pretty often, the day to day grind of lfe gets in the way of really living it.
Unfulfilled dreams, relationships, life-long goals etc., can often take a backseat
to the day to day. Usually, we need a real wake-up call to become aware of

In this novel, our main character, Lukas Kettle, is doing just
that. He wants to write, but is working a lab job to make
ends meet. His last relationship was several years ago; he
still hasn't moved on. In fact, he still sees her everyday at
work. He reconnects with a childhood friend, Sara, and
they seem headed to a real relationship. Only one problem,
Sara is suffering from cancer, and has a few months left to
live. Jonathan Slusher, the author of Water Landing, uses
a really interesting technique of story telling. Going back
in time, he recounts the relationship with Sara, and lets us
in on the daydreams and hopes that Lukas pins on this
relationship. Near the end of her life, Sara cuts herself off from Lukas, leaving
him without closure on the relationship, with only his fantasies of making it
work left to him.

Lukas travels back to his hometown for Sara's funeral, and to hook up with
some old highschool buddies. In the process, he reviews his life and where
circumstances have gotten him thus far.

Told with excellent insight and tenderness, Jonathan Slusher has written a
novel that stays with the reader after finishing it. You'll examine your life, and
possibly look at things from a different slant after reading. You come to care
about Lukas, and mourn Sara's passing with him. I could not put this book
down, I found it captivating, well written and satisfying. I look forward to more
work by this very promising author.

October 12, 2009
By Jeffrey S. Pace "The Pacer" (USA)

Strangely familiar and uncannily observant. Water Landing is a lean and
tremendously readable tale about being human. You won't be disappointed.



This is an exceptionally well-written tale of a man who has wandered aimlessly
through life and is now approaching middle age and wondering what purpose
his existence serves. The flashbacks as he drifts through the weekend of
Sara's funeral are touching and well-done.

This sort of tale could easily get bogged down in maudlin emotion or numbing
apathy; instead, the reader is immediately drawn into Luke's world and
empathizes with his sense of frustration at what he feels has been thus far a
wasted life. Analogies are handled with subtlety and flow effortlessly with the
plot, never feeling heavy-handed or forced. His narration wanders slightly off-
topic at times, reinforcing his sense of aimlessness--it's as if he can't even
keep his thoughts well-ordered and on-track.

While at times Luke seems a hapless victim of his own mistakes and
misunderstandings, he is ultimately an optimist and dreamer whose dreams
have not materialized yet because he's not really sure what they are. It takes
Sara's death to force him to examine his past and begin to develop a firmer
sense of what he wants from life.

Luke's almost unwitting perseverance pays off in the end, and what could have
been a sad tale of a man thrown permanently off-track by the death of the
woman he loved--or thought he did, as he's never quite sure himself--instead
ends with his determination to move on in life, with more purpose and direction.

Luke could easily have been a very unsympathetic character that the reader
could not identify with at all; instead, he is a well-drawn and ultimately likeable
figure who mirrors the angst that many people feel as they search for meaning
in life and a way to make their dreams a reality.

The writing is crisp; no words are wasted, and each detail fits perfectly. There
is nothing that needs to be added here, and nothing that needs to be cut. In
short, everything in this story works as it should and leaves the reader feeling
as if Luke is an old friend they are delighted has finally begun to figure out how
to make his dreams reality.

By  David Wilde (Melbourne, Australia)

I read "Water Landing" during the summer holidays and I really enjoyed it. Jon
Slusher is a talented writer: he has an excellent vocabulary, a great use of
imagery, a concise ability to describe and a quirky sense of humour, I laughed
out loud many times! He portrayed the emotional aspects of the story so
poignantly. I was disappointed when I finished the book and I'm looking forward
to more work by him.

By Amy Seitel (Fairfield, CT)

Jonathan Slusher's Water Landing was both comical and sad, with just the
right balance. Slusher succeeded in creating an immensely likable and
relatable character in Luke Kettle, in addition to a storyline that left me always
hoping for the best for Luke in his quest to find peace in his current situation.
Water Landing was an enjoyable read that was difficult to put down. I am
already looking forward to Slusher's next novel and am hoping that Luke Kettle
or a similar character will be part of it.
Michele, mon professeur français.
(Elle trouve la choses de papa de maison mieux.)

Le décor :

Le roman révèle un très bon sens du décor ( « setting »). Pratiquement
partout, les lieux sont très bien évoqués, aussi bien la Californie que la côte
Est. Par exemple, au début, l’association de la nourriture et  du décor, l’océan
et les poissons.  Mais trop souvent, les descriptions de la nature sont vues de l’
extérieur par le narrateur ou personnage principal. C’est dommage car les
éléments naturels pourraient refléter avec beaucoup de force les sentiments
du ou des personnages : par exemple les arbres de la forêt traversée par Luke
et  Sara pourraient faire écho à la maladie mortelle de Sara.

La nature pourrait être un vrai personnage mais ce n’est pas assez exploité, ce
qui donne l’impression d’un « travelogue », car les descriptions ne sont pas
suffisamment liées aux personnages ou à l’intrigue.

Le narrateur/personnage principal

C’est la faiblesse du roman, car pratiquement la seule voix entendue est celle
du narrateur, dans un récit à la première personne. Il domine entièrement le
récit et il n’y a pas de place pour les autres personnages. Il y a seulement deux
« scènes » où une interaction permet un autre point de vue : celle avec son
frère Gabriel dans le chapitre cinq et celle avec le père de Sara dans le
chapitre 13.

Le narrateur parle « dans le vide » : il essaye d’établir le contact avec un
lecteur imaginaire. Pourquoi ne pas inventer un autre personnage à qui il s’
adresserait ? Ce serait peut-être plus poignant s’il s’adressait à Sara (même si
elle est morte).

Les personnages secondaires :

C’est surtout la voix de Sara qui manque, on ne la découvre jamais de l’
intérieur, on ne la connaît pas : juste quelques mails reçus par Luke. Il y a des
occasions qui ne sont pas exploitées : faire parler d’autres personnages qui la
connaissaient, ou d’autres mails plus révélateurs de sa personnalité.

Il y a deux problèmes : il est difficile de s’identifier au narrateur car on le
connaît trop (il parle tout le temps de lui et se regarde dans le miroir à
plusieurs reprises) et il est impossible de s’identifier à Sara car on la connaît à
peine. Le résultat est qu’on passe à côté de l’histoire. Pareil pour Lena, la
voyageuse allemande qu’il rencontre dans l’avion (chapitre III) : ce n’est qu’un
prétexte pour que le narrateur parle de lui.

Après la lecture du roman, il reste beaucoup d’interrogations :

Pourquoi est-ce que Sara est presque inexistante ? Pourquoi le personnage
de Lena apparaît soudainement au début du roman et réapparaît jute avant la
fin ? Quel est le sens du roman ? Est-ce que c’est une histoire sur le cancer ?
Quelle est l’intention ou les intentions ?