Monday, March 11, 2013

Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

He wakes up in Penn Stations with no memories of who he is or where he came from.  All he has are the clothes on his back and a beat up copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau.  Taking Thoreau's name, Hank takes off for Concord Massachusetts, home of Walden Pond where Thoreau lived, in the hopes that the book is a clue to getting his memory back.

This was an odd little book.  It took a long time to get where it was going.  It was kind of slow.  Despite that, I enjoyed reading it.  When Hank first wakes up in New York, he falls in with a couple street kids, Jack and Nessa, who are involved with a drug dealer. Shortly after helping Jack escape a drug deal gone bad by hitting the guy with a brick, Hank gets out of New York and heads to Concord.

I liked how Hank learns things about himself, even before he begins remembering things.  He realizes his body likes to run, and is good at it.  He realizes he has an excellent memory.  He begins to be a little scared of himself because he has a feeling he's done something very bad.  He senses that he can't let anyone find him, which is why he doesn't try to find help.

In Concord, Hank is taken under the wing of a reference librarian/Thoreau scholar, Thomas, who encourages him to get help, or at least do some research trying to try and figure out who he is.  At the same time, Hank is starting to like his new life, living in Concord, getting to know a girl who goes to the local high school, agreeing to be in her band after realizing he knows how to play guitar. 

When Hank sees himself on a missing person website, his memories come slamming back, and he realizes who he is and what he's done.  But he can't go back and face his family until he competes in a Battle of the Bands with his girlfriend's band.  Yeah, that part was kind of weird.  But OK, clinging to some kind of control, maybe.  Then there was the random dramatic climax, that really, wasn't much of a climax, at the Battle of the Bands with Jack and Nessa showing up and Jacks all addicted to drugs.

Anyway, Thoreau and Walden is all kind of a backdrop for his journey, although, it turns out, Hank has no kind of past connection to Thoreau in anyway.  Thoreau kind of becomes Hank's ghost guide, appearing to him and talking to him.  It was kind of weird, actually.  It reminded me a bit of Emily's Dress, where I liked everything about it, except the Emily Dickinson part didn't gel so well.  That's what it felt like for this too.

So despite the wanderings the book took, I was still engaged with the story and wanted things to turn out OK for Hank.  Worth a read.

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