Recommended as "One of the Best Books of 2022" by The New Yorker. From the author of As It Is On Earth, 2013 recipient of The PEN/Hemingway Honorable Mention for Literary Excellence in Debut Fiction.
"5 of 5 stars" - Foreword Clarion Reviews
“Wheelwright is a thoughtful, meticulous writer…A scientifically intriguing, dramatic, and challenging read.” - Kirkus Reviews
In 1917, during the construction of a large reservoir in the Catskill hamlet of Gilboa, New York, a young paleontologist named Winifred Goldring identified fossils from an ancient forest flooded millions of years ago when the earth's botanical explosion of oxygen opened a path for the evolution of humankind. However, the reservoir water was needed for NYC, and the fossils were buried once again during the flooding of the doomed town.
A mix of fact and fiction, The Door-Man follows three generations of interwoven families who share a deep wound from Gilboa's last days. The story is told by Winifred's grandson, a disaffected NYC doorman working near the Central Park Reservoir during its decommissioning in 1993.
The brief and provisional nature of one's life on earth - and the nested histories of the places, people and events that give it meaning - engender a reckoning within the tangled roots and fragile bonds of family.
Praise for The Door-Man
"Good fiction opens new dimensions and perspectives on our existence, and Peter Wheelwright opens many in The Door-Man. All in the course of a gripping three-generation saga of an extended family that includes murder, incest, bastard siblings, and all kinds of other skeletons in the closet. A frothy bouillabaisse of narrative history and imaginative storytelling."
—Alex Shoumatoff, literary journalist, author, and editor of Dispatches from the Vanishing World
“The Door-Man is a big, deep, beautiful book that ponders the mysteries of identity and existence—where we’re from and what we are, and the hidden forces that bind people together and drive them apart. Peter Wheelwright has written a riveting multi-generational saga that is also a meditation on time itself—what it gives and what it takes, and ultimately, what endures.”
—Catherine Chung, author of Forgotten Country and The Tenth Muse
“Like Richard Powers and Barbara Kingsolver, Peter Matthiessen Wheelwright renders the inextricable connection between natural history and human history in this beautifully layered and richly imagined novel. Wheelwright’s perceptive and observant door-man, Kinsolver, is a wonderful repository of comings and goings, past and present. As much philosopher and identity sleuth as valet, he excavates the stories of three generations from their entanglement with the geologic history of upstate New York, thereby offering escape from repetition of an aberrant past. One gets the feeling that Wheelwright knows this territory in his bones!"
—Paula Closson Buck, Author of Summer on the Cold War Planet
"A suspenseful reflection on identity and memory, with their unsparing strangeness and dreamlike fragility, The Door-Man intimates that while time does not heal all, it does elicit forgiveness. Wheelwright reminds us that, like memory itself, life does not progress steadily without opposition, but occurs in unexpected leaps and bounds, seemingly random and always incomplete. A complex and thoughtful book."
(Susanna Moore, Author of In the Cut and Miss Aluminum-A Memoir)
“Starting from the political intrigue, science, and mechanics of a massive public works project—the creation of a reservoir for New York City by flooding communities in the Catskills—The Door-Man is, at one level, a historical fiction, vibrant with the colors and controversies of the region from the early 20th century, and on this strength alone, it would hold us. But Wheelwright’s writing, so rich with detail, winds across generations and brings to life a vast array of characters—from muleskinners and paleontologists to murderers and a door man. We are swept into a swirling plot that is at once suspense story, speculative fiction, romance, and comedy. And it is more than these. Just as blasting the earth in a tiny upstate town reveals a history before history, setting in motion the quest to revive a primeval forest, Wheelwright’s novel takes us deep into human motivation and beyond it, to a concept of time that dwarfs us. Like his own award-winning As It Is On Earth, The Door-Man asks each of us to reflect on our place on these American lands and among the people we’ve variously misunderstood, loved, displaced, or forgotten.”
—Derek Furr, author of Semitones and Suite for Three Voices
“Wheelwright conjures another time and world, a once-here historical intrigue as poignant as memory. Filled with insight, deft detail and wry wit, The Door-Man is exactly the novelistic embrace we need in our agitated bewilderment.”
—John Reed, author of Snowball’s Chance
About the Author
Peter Matthiessen Wheelwright is a writer, educator, and architect. He is a Professor Emeritus at The New School, Parsons School of in New York City where he taught design and wrote on matters of the environment in both the built and natural worlds.
As It Is On Earth, his first work of fiction, received a 2013 PEN/Hemingway Honorable Mention for Literary Excellence in Debut Fiction.
His architectural work has been widely published, and "The Kaleidoscope House", a modernist dollhouse designed in collaboration with the artist Laurie Simmons, is in the Collection of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art.
He comes from a family of writers, naturalists, and architects. His uncle and namesake is the late three-time National Book Award recipient,Peter Matthiessen.