The Four Corners of the Sky: A Novel

The Four Corners of the Sky: A Novel

by Michael Malone

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"There's humor and action aplenty, but Four Corners is also a warmhearted look at how we love and forgive. Five hundred and forty-four pages never seemed so short"-People, 4 stars, People Pick

The Four Corners of the Sky is master storyteller Michael Malone's new novel of love, secrets, and the mysterious bonds of families. Malone brings characters to life as only he can, exploring the questions that defy easy answers: Is love a choice or a calling? Why do the ties of family bind so tightly? And is forgiveness a gift to others...or a gift we give ourselves?

In small towns between the North Carolina Piedmont and the coast the best scenery is often in the sky. On flat sweeps of red clay and scrub pine the days move monotonously, safely, but above, in the blink of an eye, dangerous clouds can boil out of all four corners of the sky...The flat slow land starts to shiver and anything can happen.

In such a storm, on Annie Peregrine's seventh birthday, her father gave her the airplane and minutes later drove out of her life. Thus begins an enchanting novel that bursts with energy from the first pages, and sweeps you off on a journey of unforgettable characters, hilarious encounters, and haunting secrets.

Praise for The Four Corners of the Sky

'There's humor and action aplenty, but Four Corners is also a warm-hearted look at how we love and forgive. Five hundred and forty-four pages never seemed so short."
People magazine 4-Star Review

"Devoted Michael Malone fans have been waiting more than twenty years for another Handling Sin, perhaps the greatest road novel since Tom Jones. The wait is over..."
Bill Ott, editor-in-chief, Booklist

"Secrets and intrigues among the honeysuckle: a sun-washed yarn of the New South, affectionately told."
-Kirkus starred review

"The Four Corners of the Sky is the best thing I have read in years and you can imagine how much I read. Truly, I couldn't put it down. I loved it."
Kathy Ashton, The King's English Bookshop


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402249570
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 04/01/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 1,058,653
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Michael Malone is the author of ten novels, a collection of short stories, and two works of nonfiction. Educated at Carolina and at Harvard, he is now a professor in Theater Studies at Duke University. Among his prizes are the Edgar, the O. Henry, the Writers Guild Award, and the Emmy. He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, with his wife.
Michael Malone is the author of ten novels, a collection of short stories and two works of nonfiction. Educated at Carolina and at Harvard, he is now a professor in Theater Studies at Duke University. Among his prizes are the Edgar, the O. Henry, the Writers Guild Award, and the Emmy. He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, with his wife.


Hillsborough, North Carolina

Place of Birth:

Durham, North Carolina


B.A., Syracuse University; Ph.D. in English, Harvard University

Read an Excerpt

In small towns between the North Carolina Piedmont and the coast the best scenery is often in the sky. On flat sweeps of red clay and scrub pine the days move monotonously, safely, but above, in the blink of an eye, dangerous clouds can boil out of all four corners of the sky and do away with the sun so fast that, in the sudden quiet, birds fly shrieking to shelter. The flat slow land starts to shiver and anything can happen.

In such a storm, on Annie Peregrine's seventh birthday, her father gave her the airplane and minutes later drove out of her life. When thunder scared her awake she found herself in their convertible, parked atop a hill near a barn. Off in the distance rose a large white house with a wide white porch. A white pebble road curved away behind the car, unreeling like ribbon on a spool. Annie looked past two rows of rounded black trees to where fields of yellow wheat spilled to the edge of the sky. Her father and she must have arrived at Pilgrim's Rest, the Peregrine family house in Emerald, North Carolina, toward which they'd been driving all day.

Sliding from their car, she saw him, slender and fast-moving, his white shirt shimmery, as he ran toward her out of the barn and across the dusky yard.

"Annie!" Reaching her, her father dropped to his knees and hugged her so fiercely that her heart sped. "I'm in trouble. I've got to leave you here a little while with Aunt Sam and Clark. Okay?"

She couldn't speak, could only shake her head. How often had he told her that the house where he had grown up, that Pilgrim's Rest had been for him a pit of snakes, a cage of tigers? He kept nodding to make her nod too. "Okay? I'll be back. Just hang onto your hat." Pulling a pink baseball cap from his pocket, he snuggled it down onto her head. Colored glass beads spelled ANNIE above its brim; a few beads were missing, breaks in the letters.

Across the driveway a tall woman with short thick hair banged open the large doors of the barn. She called out to Annie's father. "Jack? Jack! Jack! Jack!"

Annie's father turned her around to face the woman but kept talking with that nodding intensity that always meant they would need to move fast. "See my sister Sam over there? I told you how nice she is." The sound of sharp thunder flung the child back into the man's arms. "So's Clark. They'll take care of you. I'll call you. Remember, you're a flyer." He yanked her small hard blue suitcase out of the convertible, dropping it onto the gravel beside her. "Give Sam the cash."

"Stop it. Where are you going!"

"Annie, I know. It's rotten." A drop of rain fell on his face like a fat fake tear. Drops splattered on the suitcase's shiny clasps. "Go look in the barn. There's a present for you. 'Sorry, no silver cup.' " She kicked him as hard as she could. And then she kicked over the blue suitcase. "I want to go with you," she said. "You!" But before she could stop him, her father had run to their car and was driving away.

She raced after the Mustang, down the pebble road between the dark rows of large oak trees. It was hard to make her voice work loudly but finally it flamed up her throat and she could shout at him to come back. She was already crying, already knowing she couldn't run fast enough.

Behind her, the tall woman named Sam kept calling, "Jack! Jack!"

Annie echoed her, hoping it would help. "Dad! Dad!" The convertible braked to a skidding stop, her father twisting around in the seat to call out, "Your birthday present's in the barn, go look in the barn! Annie! Don't forget. You're a flyer!"

She screamed as loudly as she could, "You stop!"

The wind caught his scarf as he sped off; it flew into the air behind him. Then he was gone and the green silk scarf lay coiled near her feet. She ground it into the pebbled road with her small leather cowboy boots; they were as green as the scarf and stitched with lariats. She had wanted these boots so badly that only a week ago her father had turned their car around, drove them back fifty miles to some small town in the middle of a flat state; he took her to the store where she'd seen the boots in the window and he bought them for her. "Never wait to say what you want," he told her. "It's no fun to go back. And sometimes you can't."

But now she'd said what she wanted and he'd left her anyhow. Dust and rain stung Annie's eyes shut and the world turned black. The tall woman's voice was calling again.

"Annie! Annie!"

Furious, the child flung herself into the gully beside the road, tumbling down a tangle of vines and underbrush; she lay there in the rain, hiding from the woman Sam until her voice, solicitous and worried, passed by, still shouting, "Annie! Annie!" After a while, the woman's voice faded and there were no sounds but the hard wind and rain. Annie decided to walk along the road in the direction her father had gone. Maybe he would stop for gas or food and she would find him again.

But suddenly her pink baseball cap blew off, whisking over the bank. She chased the cap onto a path that wound up to a hilltop, where it caught against a pair of closed white wooden gates. On a post beside these gates there hung a wood sign with painted letters. It said, "Pilgrim's Rest, 1859." And above that, "Peregrines" was carved in the wings of a wood hawk flying. She undid the heavy iron latch of the gates and pushed her way through the opening.

In the yard, gusty stinging rain and wind slapped at her, shoving her against the front of the barn. Its immense gray weathered doors blew suddenly apart as if she had knocked on them in a fairy tale and some invisible sorcerer with power over the elements had ordered the wind to sweep her inside.

The barn was an enormous dark empty space, with high rafters and a sweet strong smell. Outside, the storm was close and noisy, but the barn was quiet. Annie walked into the middle of the shadowy space. There, alone, sat an old airplane. It was a fixed-wing single-engine plane, a Piper Warrior painted cherry red with blazing yellow stripes and a silver propeller on its black nose. The door to its cockpit was swung open. From the seat the beam of a large red battery lantern was shining on the plane so clearly she could see the fresh footprints of her father's shoes in the thick dust on the wing. She ran over to the plane, crawled behind its wheel cap and beat her head against her knees in a shout of grief so hopeless that the noise she made scared her. She cried until she heard an unfamiliar man's voice call her name, "Annie." Quickly she bit at the cloth on her knee, quiet, listening. The voice moved away.

Above her, beneath the airplane's low curved wing, she could make out spiraling green letters curled like a dragon's tail, spelling the words, King of the Sky.

While they'd traveled on highways together, her father had told her about his old airplane, the King, how he and she could have been moving much faster back and forth across America if they'd only had the use of the King of the Sky, how the plane was "just sitting there in the barn" at his childhood home Pilgrim's Rest, in a town called Emerald. He'd told her that someday they'd go get the King and they'd fly it all over the country. Annie had never much believed such a plane existed, any more than the lost treasures and magic elixirs and prison tunnels he'd also described.

Now she hugged the King of the Sky's wheel with both arms and legs. "I'm a flyer," she said. "A flyer. A flyer."

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Four Corners of the Sky 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1309 reviews.
book_book More than 1 year ago
This was the first book by Malone I've read. And though I enjoyed his writing style and the general premise of this story, I thought it was, at times, too long winded and repetitive. There were plenty of plot twists, and some nice surprises, and the characters were offbeat -- mostly in a good way. The story flipped and flopped and meandered from past to present, but once I got the hang of Malone's writing, I was able to handle the zigs and zags in timeline. I do feel the book could have done with a solid edit before being published, but I liked it nonetheless.
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
My thoughts"Four Corners of the Sky" by Michael Malone is an ambitious novel about family dynamics and the bonds that hold them together. I wasn't sure what to expect when I started this novel but as I started reading this story I felt for Annie and wanted to know what her con artist father was up to. Why a father would leave his seven year old daughter with her aunt and not come back? What is so important about the plane residing in the family barn? Time goes by and Annie is a soon to be divorced naval pilot when her dad comes back into her life. Upset and confusion are two of the emotions that Annie feels. This is a book one has to read slowly to really understand the characters and where they are coming from and where they are heading. I approached the book this way and although there were some parts I thought dragged, overall it is a good read.
liseur More than 1 year ago
A rewriting of the Wizard of Oz for the 21st century, the novel tracks Annie P. Goode, a navy test pilot, as she tries to find her wizard con man father to discover the identity of her mother, good witch or bad? In the process her story covers the military history of America's 20th century empire. A great read--the meeting with the Tin Man is very, very sexy, and there is romance and intrigue to spare. Malone's sentences are some of the best in the language, so you can reread this book multiple times. Great for the beach and the armchair in winter both.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found The Four Corners of the Sky story engaging and easy to read from the start to finish. Michael Malone has created charming and realistic characters in this story. I really liked this book and have added Michael Malone to my list of favorite authors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's been too long since Michael Malone's last novel, even if FOUR CORNERS OF THE SKY makes it worth the wait. His beautiful writing, his interesting yet quirky characters, his real dialogue, and his wonderful storytelling make this a must read and a must keep for your personal libarary.
Praetor More than 1 year ago
A lot of flashbacks and repetition in this story of rather odd family dynamics. The detail put into the characters was perhaps overdone though the individual quirks and motivation made them believable. The story itself was unique and interesting but this is not an easy read with the way the author bounces between past and present. While much of the flashbacks tie back into the story, it was tedious at times. Ultimately, a good story with interesting characters. Could have used a bit more editing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Finally gave up. Slow read and repetitive. Kept waiting for the plot to develop then realized there was no plot. It just kept going on and on and on. Very seldom give up on a book but this one got deleted half way through. Maybe it got better in the second half but not worth slogging through the first half to get there. Not recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Plot somewhat clever, but character development tedious and cliched.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book came as a free selection so I read it. While I found the story interesting enough and fairly well written, it's, in my opinion, just a middle of the road story. I am glad it's not one I paid for because it's just not good enough to plunk money down for. I found this book overly wordy and if I wasn't already so invested in it I would have stopped reading after 300 pages. The ending was also extremely drawn out. Malone should of ended the book about 100 pages before he actually did.
Stueysmom More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this story very much. It was slow getting started but once it got going it kept my attention. Lots of plot twists and turns. Nicely tied up at the end. Very entertaining.
Love_My_Nook_Color More than 1 year ago
I like this book, but it is very slow going. I usually can read a book in a couple of days, but I just hit page 100 (out of over 400!) on this one! The imagery in this book is great, but a little repetitive. All around, I'd recommend this book.
salilee More than 1 year ago
This book would make a nice movie. A young girl abandoned by her father who passed along his obsession with flying at a time when women were not commonly pilots. Some events don't seem plausible, but good story overall
Alyson Willard More than 1 year ago
As a free friday book i wasnt expecting much but downloaded because i liked the cover. But was really happy with the book! The characters were great! The character development was superb(though alittle confusing going back and forth between past and present). I liked the quirkiness of everyone...made me want to be a part of their get togethers. I was surprised by the twists and turns the plot took which made the book all that much better! Would recommend to anyone who likes a little depth in their reading.
Breakfast_at_Tiffanys More than 1 year ago
Long, repetitive ....but a good story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The heroine seemed to be flawless in every capacity. Her unfortunate early childhood and her criminal father contrasted with her success. There were very funny scenes that had me laughing out loud. It was a great book-a very touching story on dreams and family bonds.
tibsboys on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was way too long for its plot. The author was repetitive. Ok, I get that the main character was very driven. Ok, I get it that her father was a con artist. Hundreds of pages later, the author is still telling the reader what to think. Not a surprising outcome, either. Too bad, I wished that it was otherwise.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a big book. The sort that I shy away from unless I have unlimited amunts of time at my disposal, which of course, being the mother of three very active children, never occurs anymore. But this book sounded good. And it was something I had made a commitment to read. And do you know what? I read it as quickly as I've read many a much shorter book. That is to say, Malone can put together a story that gallops along and certainly keeps a reader turning pages fast and furiously as I did with this one.Annie Peregrine Goode is 26. She's in the middle of divorcing her cheating ex-husband. And she's going home to see the aunt and aunt's best friend who raised her after her con-man father dumped her at the family home and ran when she was seven. Told by dizzying jumps forward and backwards in time, the mystery of Annie's mother, why her dying father needs her help now after all these years, and the story of a possibly real but possibly apocryphal Cuban treasure cram the book's pages thoroughly. As the reader stumbles along with Annie, trying to figure out the important things she needs to know and what she can just let go, Malone manages to weave a rollicking, fun story. His characters are quirky and off-beat. Perhaps a few of the plot lines are ultimately given short shrift but the plethora of characters helps to illuminate the themes of unconventionality, familial love, drive, and learning to fly on your own (the literal standing in for the figurative here given Annie's status as a top-notch Naval pilot).As this is an overly long book, it could probably have done with some cutting and it does get repetitive in places, especially for the reader who doesn't put it down often. Sometimes the repetitiveness makes it all too obvious where the plot is going and which bits are most important to remember but if you can ignore the occasional heavy-handedness and the unbelievable character coincidences that make it terrifically obvious Malone wrote for a soap opera, you can still have an entertaining and adrenaline-laden read. I did notice this stuff, and yet, overall, it was still a light and fun read for me. So don't let the length scare you off but be willing to suspend disbelief and enjoy a dip into a Southern style soap opera.
laurie_library on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
wonderful book, full lusious and a great book for the book group to read next year. Annie, the Navy pilot, seraching for her father, Jack and raised by her gay Aunt Sam and her friend Clark. Wonderful story of love, redemption, longing and finding answers to life's tough questions of betrayal and desertion.
BobNolin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A sort of Chick-Lit version of "Handling Sin," this was an enjoyable, light read. Malone is such a good writer that you almost don't mind when he spends way too many pages setting up the story. I counted, and one scene spanned 60 pages and several chapters. Get on the plane already. The humor mostly fell flat, and the characters were pretty one-dimensional types borrowed from his other books.
Beth350 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A young woman, abandoned by her father at age 7, grows up under the care of an aunt and her friend. She learns to fly and joins the US Navy as a pilot. Suddenly, on her 26th birthday, she gets a message from her father asking for her help in retriving an item from Cuba. She gets involved with her father's schemes and starts a fascinating journey to help him and to possibly find out who her mother was.
kysmom02 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was just O.K. for me. Not bad, but nothing to drop everything for. This is a long book and it took more than the usual 100 pages to get me interested in it. In fact, I not sure that I was totally interested until the very end. The book is totally wrapped around Annie. She desperately wants to know who her mother is, but in order to find out, she has to chase her con-man of a father all over the country. Annie finds herself caught up in a scheme in which her father is trying to secure one million dollars to give to Annie. Annie's character is well developed, but I'm not sure that any woman, especially with the intelligence that Annie has, would chase the man that abandoned her as a child. I don't think that I would! I really liked Annie and wanted things to work out for her, so I was glad that she finally found love.The big con that Annie's father was wrapped up in seemed really far fetched. I know that this is a fiction book, but do cons like this really exist? I just couldn't believe some of the things that went on with him. Maybe it's just that I'm totally naive to that sort of thing, but I couldn't picture this stuff actually happening. I would also have like to see a little more suspense. I never felt the urge to jump ahead in this book because there wasn't anything teasing me to do so.This book was drawn out and went on and on, but the ending was really good and totally fitting to the rest of the story. There were so many underlying messages about family and love, and many of them came out in the end. Sam and Clark had the most incredible relationship and were such great 'parents' to Annie. I found myself wanting to give up on this book, but I'm glad that I didn't.
TerriBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Easy, entertaining read with appealing characters. Descends into farce at times. Definitely could be shorter - lots of it could be tightened up and made less repetitive.
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