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American Purgatorio: A Novel Paperback – January 24, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (January 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031242499X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312424992
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,616,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A man scrutinizes what it means to live and love during a cross-country search for his missing wife in a prickly, penetrating novel by the author of I Am Not Jackson Pollock. After stopping for gas on his way to his mother-in-law's house, the narrator, Jack, emerges from a convenience store to find that his car and his wife, Anne, are nowhere to be found. After making his way back home, Jack discovers a U.S. map marked with an apparent route; imagining that this will lead him to his wife, he buys another car and sets off. Haskell twists the essential mystery—what happened to Anne?—into a meticulous, probing investigation of one man's desires, fears and coping mechanisms, a tactic that somewhat slows the narrative but results in existential chewiness. As Jack makes his way to Kentucky, Colorado, California, he encounters odd but sympathetic strangers, many of whom are likewise journeying, most of whom aid him and some of whom seem like reflections of himself. The cool, intentionally deadened prose can make for difficult reading; that Haskell turns the notion of the unreliable narrator on its head not once but twice will redeem everything for some readers and make others feel tricked. Chapters named for the seven deadly sins (in Latin) signal Jack's path through pride and sloth, through a world that feels both banally familiar and utterly alien—an American purgatory—in this strange and compelling novel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

A man's life changes forever when he walks out of a gas station and into a convenience store. His waiting wife has vanished, and the narrator's life takes on a new quest--to find her.^B So begins Haskell's first novel, and the nameless narrator begins a winding journey in search of his lost wife and for his former life. From a leafy block in Brooklyn to the beaches of Southern California, he searches desperately, and his journey is both heroic and heartbreaking. His peregrinations are linked to the seven deadly sins, and he encounters a strange cast of characters until he arrives, brokenhearted and broke, on the beaches of San Diego. What he discovers along the way is that memory is often selective and revelatory, that strangers are not always kind (but they often are), and that life-changing experiences (good and bad) can be just around the corner. Haskell's short story collection I Am Not Jackson Pollack (2003)^B received praise, and his first novel is equally laudable. Michael Spinella
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

A fresh and simple way of writing.
Barbara A Dignan
I really enjoyed this novel, but don't think its for everyone, so I have a hard time recommending so highly in this review.
MLRapp
I tried to like this, but got halfway through it and it just couldn't sustain my interest any longer.
Ransom

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This strange novel requires a certain mindset, a willingness to follow the protagonist through a series of actions that make no sense in an ordinary context. But that is the point. This man is engaged in an effort to control his environment and limit his reactions to the world around him. When he walks outside after buying snacks in a gas station-convenience store, his wife, Anne, is missing, along with their car. His reaction to this event is to wait at the gas station for her to return. When she doesn't, he walks from New Jersey back to Brooklyn, abandoning their trip to Anne's mother in Nyack, New York without even calling his mother-in-law to tell her what has happened. He doesn't call the police or act as if anything is amiss, simply returns home and goes to bed. He continues in this disjointed manner with occasional fits of rage, generally carefully monitoring himself. Within a couple of days, he buys a used car and begins a journey to recover his lost wife, using a map she has circled in strategic places. Although he has difficulty connecting to those around him, he travels across the country, the author beautifully describing people and places with a sense of immediacy and a fine talent for detail.

The narrative abstract becomes meditation in American Purgatorio, and an exploration of the seven deadly sins, difficult territory to traverse, requiring the reader to trust where the writer is taking him. Fantasy must be tempered with fact, enough to pin the character to earth while his mind drifts elsewhere in pursuit of a loved one. Clinging to the details of each place he inhabits, the protagonist is barely anchored, yet he manages to tap into reality often enough to maintain a sense of direction, his goal inexorably closer with each place he visits.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MLRapp on July 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
From page one I was hooked on this fast-paced, interesting debut novel about a happliy married man who goes into a gas station to get a snack and comes out to find his wife and car missing. The book is written in rather simple prose, which makes for an extremely fast read, however, there is a lot of depth and meaning underlying the simplicity of the words and sentences. So despite reading quickly, you're left pondering how John Haskell was able to so precisely capture raw human emotion, while using such deadpan prose. He has a unique writing style, but one which is extremely admirable, as he so wonderfully taps into how the protagnoist must have felt at each stage of his "search" for his wife, while experiencing each of the seven deadly sins (named in Latin for each part of the book).

I really enjoyed this novel, but don't think its for everyone, so I have a hard time recommending so highly in this review. If you're looking for something different, very well-written, and which captures the complexity of human emotion during a difficult time, this book will likely interest you. If you're on-the-fence, I recommend reading the first chapter before purchasing it, to get an idea about the style in which it is written.
I would likely read another novel by this author, as I believe he is very gifted, and provides interesting insight into the human condition.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cricket on April 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is astonishing: a beautiful, lyrical, philosophical work that needs to be read with care and due attention, (and not as if it were merely the latest offering from some TV book club). This is the real thing; it doesn't go out to win you over, it works on its own terms, and asks you to come along with it on an amazing journey - a journey which is more than worthwhile.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Broder on January 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I stayed up too late finishing American Purgatorio, then woke up too early -- before the alarm -- rethinking what I had read. At daylight I was back in the book, checking key passages. An ending that at midnight made me groan aloud in sadness, was found at dawn to deliver an odd redemption.

Jack -- a name the protagonist wears loosely -- is, for good reason, a man apart. He lives in his head. Like a transcontinental drive in the slow lane in a dying car, Jack's narrative of his crossing doesn't whip past. That's the book's challenge, but also its pleasure. At that pace you don't miss the sights, both real and mirage.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A fresh and simple way of writing. I felt like I was "On the Road" with Jack Kerouac, except the wandering takes place today. Highly recommend this read!!
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By Laura on September 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
One of my favourite books of all the time, it's beautifull, interesting, well written, I love Kerouac and it remaind me "on the road" (another book I love), I've bought more copies and had given them to my friends as a gift. I've read it at least 10 times and it's never boring, I recomend it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Imaginative, but not nearly as brilliant as his short stories in "I Am Not Jackson Pollock". Haskell's understanding of the actor's mind is not on display here as in the short stories, and while it is a first person narrative, he isn't able to produce the brilliant insights of before.
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