Thursday, December 18, 2008

Book Report Thursday

I finished reading Robert Bausch's A Hole in the Earth a few weeks ago and never posted anything interesting about it (as far as I can remember). Upon Cod's recommendation a while ago, I checked out this book from the Penn library, hoping to enjoy some light reading. What I found was not necessarily "light" reading and I am still not sure what my opinion is of this book. We follow Henry Porter, a middle aged, single man whose life is turned upside down one summer. His daughter from a previous marriage turns up (having just graduated high school and turned 18) and his girlfriend of several years tells him she's pregnant. Henry is a school teacher with very little money, so he supplements his income with gambling at the racetrack, which is one of the reasons his first wife left him. I am not sure if this novel is an accurate representation of a middle aged man not wanting to take responsibility for his life or if its the representation of a whiny, immature little boy who never grew up. I so disliked the main character during the first few chapters that I could barely get myself to read the book. Thankfully, the chapters are short and quick so that made it easier to get through. As we grow older, our focus tends to be more on those around us than ourselves and our lives. Narcicissm and insularity are reserved for our adolesence and college years and then we have to grow up and take responsiblity for our lives. I think this book is about this man's journey to that point (at 40!) but to be honest with you, I could not identify with any of the characters, save for maybe the 18 year old daughter. Henry hems and haws over his girlfriend's pregnancy, worrying about telling his family (you're 40 for crissake!) and his daughter and how he will be perceived. He fixates on how much his father hates him and how much of a disappointment he's been to his entire family. And yet, he does nothing to change his life of make improvements of things. He does nothing to take responsiblity for the family he has and the family that is just beginning. He leaves his girlfriend hanging and eventually helps her to see the light that he is not the greatest guy and she should just raise the kid on her own. I think I disliked Henry so much because he was lazy and he was not proactive. He just let things happen to him without taking part in his own life. He never fully took control of his predicament, allowing people to come and go in and out of his life without the slightest inclination towards trying to keep them in (or out of) his life. He complained and made up ridiculous excuses for why things were the way they were without really doing anything about it, which really pisses me off in general. And then he disappears. Without a trace. At the time when people need him the most, he leaves. Granted, he does come back in the end. But his behavior throughout the book set the tone. No matter what he did at the end, I was convinced he would always be the guy that lets stuff happen instead of getting things done. And, unfortunately, this is just not someone I can identify with.
As for the book itself, I must admit after the first several chapters I really got into it. I guess just because I didn't like the character, I was somehow invested in their lives and wanted to know how things turned out. I did wake up super early one morning and read the last 150 pages because I couldn't put the book down or get it out of my mind. I think once I accepted that I did not like the title character and that I don't always have to identify with characters, the book became easier to read. Bausch is an excellent writer, forming images in my head that persist weeks later. Altogether, it was a difficult book to get through, but I think it was well worth it. It has made me think aboutmy own life and why I've had such a visceral dislike of the title character. And it's kept me thinking about it for several weeks. That, to me, is the sign of a good book.


Randi said...

I prefer the works of Baisch.

Coodence said...

Dude, good review. I didn't like it either, but was compelled to finish it.

Try Three Junes, next. I loved it!