Author: Joshua Ferris
Publisher: Penguin Viking
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To rise again at a decent hour is the recollection of the past few years of a Dentist Paul O’Rourke’s life in the Big Apple – New York. With a well settled practice and a satisfying career, Paul is driven by loneliness. Being slightly eccentric and questioning everyone’s beliefs and practices, he manages to distance himself from people who could have been great friends otherwise. With his sardonic humor, love for his work and his arduous love for the red sox, he tightly accomplishes avoiding his frequent solitude. But then, he starts receiving mails from himself. There is a person online who has assumed Paul’s identity and starts getting increasingly active, much to the actual Paul’s discomfort. He sets on a journey to track his identity thief. And the rest, is more of History than you could have imagined.
What I liked –
The character of Paul O’Rourke is plain and unusually fantastic. His humor is droll and his way of thinking is remarkably close to your own thoughts. The mild yet loving altruism he shares with his ideal church going and disciplined hygienist Mrs. Convoy, is hilarious and adorable. The author brings out the guy behind the humor as someone with a darker past – a victim of his father’s suicide and his mother’s suffering as a single parent. Certain things like Paul’s insomnia and its causes, his love-hate liaison with human relations, his affliction with the Me-machine (read mobile phone) and Internet, his enthralling curiosity and musings on religion and gods, his yearning to belong, rather stay with you. The whole idea of online identity theft, though not new to me, was a stark and shocking revelation on how easily it could happen to anyone of us. But if you think that this consists of the plot, boy you are wrong (not very unlike me!) The book makes you question about so many things, so many petty looking deep things. This was my first novel by Joshua Ferris, but he made sure that this wouldn’t be my last one.
What didn’t work –
The somewhat esoteric narrative on Judaism and Ulms, though interesting in the beginning, gets thoroughly dull as it progresses, turning into a set of rather annoying ramblings of a highly depressed person. Somewhere in the middle, you start dreading the next chapter, after seeing how a comic thriller metamorphoses in a darker thought repository.
Does is deserve the Booker?
I feel it does, just for the way it ended. I am a sucker for good endings and I strongly believe that the ending of a novel has a large part in determining how long it stays with it readers. This combined with the author’s novel trademark of humor, keen eye into the human mind and almost always (though not always) compelling narrative, I feel this book has a very good chance! Yes, it gets messy in the middle only to regain its promise towards the end.
If you were to choose a book from this year’s Booker shortlist, pick this one first!