3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 1999
This book is Scott Heim's second novel, and he still is able to capture the reader and hold them and bring them into his dark world. It is a fanastic novel that deals with death, romantic desire, revenge, and homophobia to name a few. I found that it is equal in power to his first novel, it's just the subject is different. It has the poetry of the first book, it's just darker but just as moving. I really liked it, and hopefully Scot Heim will give us his next novel soon!!!
8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 1999
Well, perhaps not. It did, however, hold a mirror to some aspects of my own life. I, like Boris, was hopelessly in love with a beautiful, savage, and, unfortunately, unobtainable objet de desir. As such I am perhaps prejudiced to vote in favour of this novel, but I do know good writing when I see it. Dripping with poignant imagery, the plot serves as a static background upon which we can examine Heim's multi-layered characters. The copious amount of detail serves the purpose of enhancing this. Please, you critical reviewers, try reading the book dispassionately and you'll see what I mean. I await Heim's next attempt with bated breath.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 1997
My review is placed here courtesy of Lambda Book Report:
One word for this book is uncanny. Readers of Scott Heim's debut novel, Mysterious Skin, will have some notion what to expect, but may be unprepared for how far Heim has pushed. He has produced a dense, unruly novel--nasty, frightening, but with a distinctive aspiration of spirit. Those who give themselves to it will be haunted.
In Awe returns us to gay-resonant Kansas, with its expansive landscapes, terrifying storms, and threats of violence. Once again we experience this world through three misfits, though this time two of them are adult women, Harriet and Sarah. Their friend, gay teenager Boris, most resembles the characters of Mysterious Skin-until we come to see him as doppelganger of a fourth protagonist, Harriet's son and Sarah's soulmate, Marshall, whose death and funeral occur, offstage, between chapters 1 and 2. Marshall's strong presence in the novel is one of several ways that Heim earns the awe of his title.
The central plot of In Awe involves the stalking of Sarah, Boris, and Harriet by homophobic locals. (In a sense, this novel expands to horrific proportions a single harassing encounter near the end of Mysterious Skin.) The stalking plot builds in complexity and creepiness until it culminates with a seven-page description of mangled bodies. But this is only the surface of what Heim has to reveal. His deeper topic is what Poe called the spirit of Perverseness: the longing of the soul to vex itself. So both Boris and Sarah become sexually fixated on their tormentors, and for each the awful climax answers desires that Heim has skillfully evoked. Along the way Heim perversely pushes the reader's limits: In Awe includes a four-year-old seducing his foster father, celebratory piss-drinking, and fellatio with a corpse.
Thrusting human perversity at us, Heim can be as harsh, and as serious, as Dennis Cooper. The effect of Heim's prose, however, is very different from Cooper's. There's a verbal expansiveness here that brings out of this grim world something grand, uncanny, horrific and sweet simultaneously. Heim's term awe evokes the sublime as defined by Edmund Burke: "fitted to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, . . . conversant about terrible objects . . . productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling." (It's consistent with this idea that storms break out in this novel at moments of highest emotion.) In Mysterious Skin, strong impulses of perversity and yearning tended to separate into different characters; In Awe makes these inextricable. The awesome uncanny is manifested in a series of haunting but exhilarating moments. Some are bizarre, as when 62 year-old Harriet loses her grief in cheerleading for a pig race; others are wrenching, as when the dying Marshall, in a flashback, lifts his eye patch to share a wink with a young boy at a baseball game. Such moments stay with you: they are cruxes, not of plot but of the uncanny human spirit.
Heim's style is an important factor in achieving his effects. One early review criticized In Awe for florid prose. "Pears rust on the branch. . . . And the cicadas, always the cicadas, groaning from elm bark and chimney-brick hideaways like martyrs, slowly burning." But I think this style is functional. Mysterious Skin was written in first person, while most of In Awe is third person. This enables the language to express states of consciousness beyond any character's articulation (a technique invented by the gay wizard Henry James.) Heim also sets up many resonances in language and imagery-for example, a turtledove that is transformed from a symbol of love to one of suffering. His skill with language is awe-aspiring. Read In Awe attentively, and you'll see
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 1999
Some of the reviews printed here miss the point. Seems like this book was meant to be more a novel just slightly out of the realm of reality than a true-to-life story--thats what makes it so powerful and creepy, as the characters are real but the situations are beyond belief, overly described, highly stylized, etc. Out of context some things here would seem unbelievable or overdone or just too horrible, but thats one of the many risks of the book, because within the context he makes it all work. Very scary and very sad, completely different than Mysterious Skin yet very obviously the same writer.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 1997
I was at Border's looking for a book to keep my company while I was grounded, and i picked this up. I was expecting another stupid, trashy suspense novel, and I was wrong. I read it in 2 days. (Couldn't put it down) The characters in this are so interesting, and Scott Heim makes you feel happy, sad, scared, and many other emotions at the same time. The ending was so shocking that i had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming. I definitely recommend this book to anyone that wants an interesting, scary, funny, riveting, and engrossing read
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 1999
Just finished this. I agree with other reviewers that trying for the "artsy gold" was really just a pretensious attempt to be recognized as A Serious Artiste. Get over yourself. His first book at least held the reader's interest. I fear Mr. Heim is In Awe of himself.
3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 1999
With his intricate characters, Heim plunders into the depths of loss to convey the waves of malevolent warnings that come from being on the downwardly spiralling road. Incredibly moving and powerful. This is what you'd get if a horror movie didn't have specific monsters: a dark and brooding tale of people in limbo waiting for their lives to change and being unable to force them to change for the better. I'll be rereading this next year so I can savor it all over again.
4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 1999
Personally I hope so. This is the most florid, overwrought piece of trailer trash fiction I've read in years. Lurid and ultimately silly. Heim seems to have lost touch with reality, replaced that with going for the artsy gold. Well, he missed by a mile. Ugh. Sad decline of a promising once young talent.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 1997
Scott Heim started out as a poet, and you can sure tell here! Beautiful evocations of emotion, loneliness, friendship, love, and the weird/beautiful/scary Midwestern landscape. Also the landscape of the midwestern mind. All tied together artfully. Some of the most ordinary moments are some of the most stunning
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 1998
In Awe is unlike anything in bookstores today. I fell in love with the three main characters; their sincerity, their faults and unrealized strengths. This is the ultimate contemporary novel, simply because it mirrors a horrorfying side of society. The horror is only accentuated by its contrasts; the beautiful countryside of Kansas, and its three endearing characters, Sarah, boris and Harriet. It is impossible to read this book and not feel immense concern for the three outcasts who are brutally terrorized by rednecked teens. Whether deliberate or not, the true-to-life characters reflect the Maiden, Mother and Crone archetypes. And, man, is it sweet too see the trio get confrontational with the creepy, homo-hating, ageist, misogynist bullys at the end of the book! If you love serious literature, you'll love this book.