Let’s not mince words: George and Irene are weirdos. George is a teacher of astronomy who has visions of ancient gods and goddesses. Irene is an astrophysicist who discovers tiny, purple black holes and doesn’t believe in love or anything else that can’t be measured with very precise instruments. George, on the other hand, longs for love like a consumptive Victorian heroine. They’re both from Toledo and, according to the powers that be, are supposed to end up together. The question Lydia Netzer’s second novel asks is ‘How?’

One way it’s possible is that Irene isn’t as cold-blooded as she wants to be. The second way it’s possible is that a twist of fate finds the two of them at the Toledo Institute of Astronomy at the same time. The Institute has heard about Irene’s mini-black holes and has hired her. George, meanwhile, is kicked out of his office to accommodate Irene and is in a position to resent her. But when he first lays eyes on Irene, he falls for her, hard. How could he not? It beats getting any more serious with his current date, a woman who spent her formative years speaking bird language with her father.

This might be a good time to mention that George and Irene aren’t the only weirdos in this book. Indeed, the reason they get together in the first place is because of a series of weird events that happened before they were born. It could be said that the culmination of the weirdness was them being born at the same time and in the same place. And none of it was an accident.

Though Netzer’s parade of human oddities can be a bit distracting, the book earns its redemptive turn at the end; there just had to be a logical reason why George had visions of deities crawling around the ceiling and falling off of balconies.

Quirky, well written and insightful, How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky reminds us of the surprises to be found in even the most predetermined circumstances.

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