- Hardcover: 248 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (January 4, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374104328
- ISBN-13: 978-0374104320
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,469,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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American Purgatorio: A Novel Hardcover – December 22, 2004
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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.
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
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This novel is both compelling and heart-breaking. When Haskell's writing is at its best it is simultaneously highly readable and containing of great depth. There are stumbles in this book though. Parts of it just don't live up to other parts. That's not to say it isn't admirable or that any other writer out there could have done any better. The fact that he was able to create such a challenging plot to execute is alone worth a lot of praise.
There were a fair amount of typos in the first printing I read.
One of the editorial reviews above says the reader may feel tricked. I can't imagine a reader being so clueless that they'd be that surprised by any of the "revelations" in the book. The title alone tells you that such surprises might be coming.
Haskell's style isn't for everyone, but I'd recommend to most anyone that they at least give this book a shot.
p.s. Near the start the narrator talks about how glass flows and old glass is wobbly because of it. That's not true! Old glass is wobbly because it was made before the plate glass process was invented and in wide use. Glass is an amorphous solid and doesn't really flow.
If you really want to read this book, pick it up from the library.
Side note: my book was supposed to be in "new" condition, but it came somewhat battered, with a page or two torn. Not sure how to feel about that.
Overall, the artistic merits of the book are drowned out by the pace and difficult tone. It's worth getting through, but it's tough getting through.