Looking Up and Inward

A local author’s debut novel explores the healing power of friendship.


Fill the Sky by Katherine A. Sherbrooke

Published by SixOneSeven Books, 264 pages, $15

In this debut novel, Tess and Joline bring their friend Ellie, who has cancer, to Ecuador to immerse her in shamanistic medicine, worlds away from chemo. The mystical treatments include medicine men rubbing eggs and guinea pigs on her body and spitting cologne at her. Inner blockages, not just Western medicine’s tumors, are being explored—and lo, Ellie’s heart, not her troubled lung, is the location of woe. A mother of three happily married to Joline’s brother, Ellie connected with an old love while she was in remission. Now he’s made his wily way to Ecuador, the cancer has returned, and Ellie is tormented with guilt.

Sherbrooke, who writes beautifully about nature, covers lots of territory: those exotic trancelike healings, friendships between women who chat girlishly while thinking deeply about their connections, the meanings surrounding illness and the complex teeterings of love. Tess, a biotech CEO, grapples with relationship worries, while Joline, a life coach and businesswoman, faces a moral dilemma—her colleague hopes to buy this sacred community and develop it in a crassly commercial way. Sherbrooke, herself a former entrepreneur, captures the language and ethos of that world so different from, but now adjacent to, a world of spirit and tradition and beauty.

Though Ellie came to Ecuador for medical reasons, the healing spirit there invites her down a long inner river that lands her at an emotionally positive place. Her friends also have romantic connections that end with satisfaction. This book of many themes gently rubs readers with a symbolic guinea pig, helping us contemplate love.

From Page 57: She was pulled back into the room by a vibration that enveloped her, like she was lying beneath a huge magnet tugging at every cell in her body. Her muscles unwound another notch and the pull became more localized, starting at her feet and traveling up toward her knees, to her belly button, over her ribs. Her skin tingled with a thousand tiny threads moving up through each pore. It was a pleasant sensation, like finally getting the water out of her ear after a long swim.

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