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Thursday, September 18, 2014

To Rise Again At a Decent Hour: A Novel

Long before I started this blog baby of mine, I read Joshua Ferris' novel The Unnamed. I loved it. So when my book club picked his new book this summer, To Rise Again At a Decent Hour, I almost peed my pants with excitement and then bought it.

Paul O'Rourke is an avowed atheist, a devoted Red Sox fan, an eschewer of technology, and a dentist. He lives his life methodically and ritualistically, alone and sad about it, until one day when he suddenly has an online presence. He gets a website, a Facebook account, and a Twitter feed. There are two problems with this situation--one, he didn't create them, and two, they are used to espouse a religious doctrine of an ancient people that no one knows of. As Paul seeks out the truth behind this impersonation, he may very well find himself in a world that is more authentic than he realizes.

This book made me thoughtful and introspective, and the more I think about it, the more I have to say about it. First of all, I love that Paul was a dentist. There was something so right and so fitting about this character's profession that it hit the nail on the head. Paul would very quickly, if he were to see a therapist, be diagnosed with either as what I call "spectrumy," or somewhere on the autism spectrum. He says things he shouldn't say and can't control it as he really genuinely either feels he is being helpful or just can't seem to grasp that they are not appropriate things to say. He drives away people in his personal life because he is infuriatingly rigid in both his life and atheistic dogma. He is incredibly smart and I have no doubt was a very precocious kid, but he can't seem to direct it in the right way, a way that is socially acceptable and not alienating to those in his life.

That being said, I found him to be a super compelling character and a great driver of the story. His relationship with his ex-girlfriend/co-worker is messy and real; as anyone who has dated a co-worker can attest, the days/weeks/months following the break up are gross and awkward and you want them to pass so so quickly. His friendship and inability to properly converse with his older hygienist, Betsey, is hilarious and realistic; this is such a credit to Ferris's ability to trust his readers in his writing, as often Paul tells us about his conversations with Betsy in which he only tells us Betsy's side. Ferris gives us the freedom to assume what Paul's response was and it is a riot (because you know, and it's just not appropriate), and it is one of my absolute most favorite reasons as to why I will read anything Ferris writes.

 I would like to point out, for the record, that Henry was so worn out after reading he had to take a nap. That's how good the story was.

Hard copy for purchase below.

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