Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ash Wednesday, by Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke can write, clearly. Better than many with bigger names in writing.

This simple novel is about growing up, changing, learning to love, learning to commit. The two characters are James and Christy. They have both been around a bit, are no longer starry-eyed and too young, yet neither is yet thirty. James lets the world take him where it will, and doesn't as a rule stand up to temptations. He likes the simple things, like hanging in the bar with his buds. Yet he has entered a time of life when he is feeling some dissatisfaction with the way his life is going.

Christy is perhaps an "old soul". She seems to be almost too old for her years, yet at the same time she retains a hope that something special can still happen to her. She is cautious, though, and she reads people well. She knows she can take care of herself. Thus she leaves the town where she lived, heading back to her home town in Texas, when she finds herself pregnant. She doesn't tell James about the baby or about her leaving.

Coincidentally, James is starting to realize how important Christy is and he hunts her down, finds her at a bus terminal many miles away. From here on there is a struggle - he wants to marry her, he wants to be with her, and yet there is always a little something that Christy senses, a something that is holding back. So she is not quick to say yes.

We follow James and Christy in alternating chapters, one narrating, then the other, as they try to understand each other and believe in each other. They fight with their own demons as often as they have it out with each other.

It's a quiet little novel about a kind of growth. Many times I felt the conversations were a bit strained, like Hawke was trying too hard to make something happen. It reads like a stage play, wordy with each sentence heavy with importance. Sometimes I would have liked more action, perhaps just tiny actions, like expressions and body movements, and fewer words. For me the situations and inner changes seemed too neat and well-presented. It's a pleasant book, though.

Oh. One more comment. There is almost more than enough God in here for this to be classified a "Christian" novel. I did not enjoy this aspect of it. 

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