It’s the summer of 2007, and 17-year-old Luke Prescott has three tasks: drafting college application essays a year early, “running between seventy and seventy-five miles per week, and getting to know my father.” The preliminary essay sketches, which make up the first half of most of Blind Sight’s chapters, are coming along well, as is the running. “My father flew me out here to Los Angeles five days ago,” Luke notes. “I wouldn’t say that I know him yet.” Raised by yoga specialist/all-round New Agey type Sara, Luke is the only boy in a family tree that’s yielded nothing but trios of girls for 12 generations. Being introduced to his father—now a famous TV actor and action-movie stalwart—inevitably launches Luke into a coming-of-age summer trajectory.
With its blandly literary title—a metaphor paid off just barely by the end—and quiet narrative particulars, Blind Sight seems like a soft, wispy first novel, but former Joffrey Ballet dancer Meg Howrey knows her East and West Coast locales inside out. Luke is a reserved 17-year-old: He prefers thinking about science over potentially getting sucked into emotional indulgence. To this end, the novel is stuffed with material about color perception, myelin sheaths, and atoms: not inherently interesting and not terribly well-expressed, but characteristic of Howrey’s preference for the distanced over the overwrought.
Howrey sharply sketches out Luke’s all-female upbringing before plunging Luke into the center of the modern celebrity world. Mark’s good intentions seem genuine; his assistant Kati, who coaches Luke on when to “walk through” interviews (long enough to make an impression, not long enough to make anyone uncomfortable) and worries about taking Mark to the “next level,” is harder to read. Luke watches as Mark shoots a science-fiction show, marveling at the craft-services table: “We were in the middle of the desert and Kati got parfait.” Between bonding on camping trips and vacation parties, he tours parties, premières, and paparazzi-infested dinners. Sometimes Mark loses it—snapping when someone congratulates him on his “Emmy nod,” as if “they had to give me a nomination but of course I won’t win”—but mostly, he concentrates on the new business of being a dad.
With all those family skeletons being exhumed and Hollywood glitz in the background, Howrey keeps an even hand. Scientific filler aside, she explores with commendable restraint of a tricky family dynamic, creating a sharp study of the many ways children can have a hard time living in the shadow of their parents’ needs, and vice versa.