Ron Carlson
Ron Carlson, M.F.A. fiction program director University Communications

Call it the little state with the big reach.

Rhode Island is touching UC Irvine in a big way by selecting Ron Carlson’s Five Skies as its statewide reading pick for 2009.

Louise Moulton, Rhode Island Center for the Book director, sent this note of congratulations to Carlson, director of UCI’s master’s program in fiction:

“Your book will be the one that the RI Center for the Book will promote to all Rhode Islanders to read as our One Book, One State selection. This is the first time we have been able to come to a decision in August. Usually the process takes another full month. The committee of 20 readers selected Five Skies as a beautifully descriptive novel of friendship and redemption, and we know Rhode Island readers will love it as much as we do.”

With this selection, Carlson finds himself in the company of Sara Gruen whose Water for Elephants was last year’s pick and Khaled Hosseini who wrote The Kite Runner, the 2005 choice.

“I’m pleased about this news,” Carlson said, “and it came right out of the blue. For one year, my book will be the book celebrated by the readers of that state.”

Want to read along with Rhode Island? Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about Five Skies.

“Two stoics and a teenage misanthrope are brought together in Idaho’s Rocky Mountains to build a ramp to nowhere in Carlson’s first novel in 25 years, a tour de force of grief, atonement and the cost of loyalty. Darwin Gallegos, spiritually bereft after the sudden death of his wife, is hired for one last job at Rio Difficulto, the sprawling ranch where he had lived and worked for years. The job: construct a motorcycle ramp that will launch a daredevil across a gorge (the event is to be taped and bring in a pile of money). Darwin hires drifters Arthur Key, a large and quiet man hiding from his recent past, and Ronnie Panelli, a wiry teenager on the lam from minor criminal mischief, to help with the job. As the men work from late spring through summer, their wounds come slowly to light: the seething fury that took root in Darwin after his wife died; Arthur’s career as the go-to Hollywood stunt engineer that he abandoned after betraying his guileless brother; and Ronnie’s short lifetime of failure, atoned for as he learns the carpentry trade. Carlson writes with uncommon precision, and this return to long-form fiction after four well-received story collections is stunning.”