ON A BEAM OF LIGHT by Gene Brewer


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Brewer brings back the 357-year-old visitor from another planet who first appeared in his debut novel, K-Pax (1995).

In 1985, slaughterhouse worker Robert Porter returned home to find his wife and daughter murdered by an intruder, whom Porter subsequently killed before attempting to drown himself. While a patient at Manhattan Psychiatric Institute, Porter was invaded by a being named "prot"—or, for those who take the psychiatric view, he split off an alter ego and became a divided personality. Then prot returned to the planet K-Pax, and Porter became catatonic, remaining in a fetal position for five years. Now prot inhabits Robert again and imparts such pearls of wisdom as, "Many humans feel sorry for the dolphins who are trapped in tuna nets. Who weeps for the tuna?" Will Porter's psychiatrist, Gene Brewer, get him out of the catatonic ward and on the long road to recovery? Astronomers who earlier had found their understanding of space revised by prot's ideas now want to go on mining him for new insights. Prot tells Brewer that he plans to return to K-Pax with a hundred humans, but in the meanwhile speaks easily with many otherwise intractable patients, including Lou, a black homosexual who's "pregnant" and should deliver in three months. Under hypnosis the mute Robert reveals his submerged past; he really wants to get well, although he now has two additional personalities named Paul and Harry. Prot talks to animals on a visit to the zoo—or does he? How does prot, on a TV show, actually disappear and reappear across the stage? Can Brewer, helped by Robert, integrate all of his patient's personalities?

Will you wonder if the very smart prot is real when you finish? Only if you're as young as Drew Barrymore in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

Pub Date: March 19th, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-26926-9
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2001


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