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Originally published Friday, August 24, 2012 at 5:30 AM

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'Isle of Khería': Global search for a better world creates close ties

Robert Cabot's "The Isle of Khería" follows the lives of two friends through decades of searching for a more just world and developing a lifelong bond. Cabot will be at Elliott Bay Books on Aug. 27, 2012.

Special to The Seattle Times

Author appearance

Robert Cabot

The author of "The Isle of Khería" will appear at 7 p.m. Monday, Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., Seattle; free (206-624-6600 or
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"The Isle of Khería" covers a lot of time and a lot of geography. The author, Robert Cabot, graduated from Harvard and Yale, served in World War II and later in U.S. government service, then traveled the world as a critic of U.S. policy in Europe and especially Vietnam. Eventually he worked as organizer of a commune in British Columbia and lives now on Whidbey Island. While "The Isle of Khería" (McPherson & Company, 320 pp., $25) isn't a memoir, it does pack the savor of firsthand experience into its global narrative.

The titular fictional island is named for the Greek word for "candle," and another fictional island that figures prominently in this tale of yearning is Khimaera, from the Greek word that gives us "chimera," which means something deeply desired but forever out of reach. On these islands, and in Athens and Rome, in World War II combat in France and Germany, and coast to coast in the United States, two men, Joel and Aidan, struggle, sometimes together but often separately, to create a world that is more just and more open to the complexities of the human heart.

For all its vivid scenery, the story is largely interior, tracing Joel and Aidan's lifelong emotional bond. Through decades of wives, lovers and children, each remains the other's lodestar. As various characters take turns adding their perspectives, we come back over and over to Joel's memories of Aidan: "And the you of your Aegean idyll in the arms of your Dimitra. The you my companion of Pindos mountain adventures. The dancing you, the laughing you." And in close counterpoint come Aidan's responses: "Always the flood of stories, but, Joel, they are more than memory should have to bear."

These living, passionate voices are candles that flicker against the gathering darkness; they illuminate the distant outline of an unreachable island where another life is possible, one safe, as Aidan puts it, from "A missile race, pre-emptive strike, fire storms and nuclear winter ... . Escalating populations, pollutions, corruptions, severe depletions, fifty wars at once." And a life open, at last, to love.

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