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The Wait Paperback – International Edition, June 24, 2008
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Hollon (Blood and Circumstance, 2006) specializes in crafting brooding crime novels that might be labeled existential noir. The tense plots primarily turn on the psyches of unusual protagonists who appear to be rational until they erupt in violence. In his sixth novel, Hollon depicts a seemingly ordinary man, James Early Winwood, who has suffered severe emotional damage. He loses his warmly affectionate father at 11 and is raised by his emotionally distant mother. He struggles to fit in in high school, developing a crush on a troubled girl that eventually becomes an obsession. When he discovers that she has turned into a full-blown crack addict, he rescues her, loses her, and spends 10 years trying to forget her. Then he has a second chance at love with a wealthy divorcée, and he decides to leave nothing to chance, even if it means committing murder. Hollon skillfully creates a mesmerizing portrayal of a vulnerable man in search of love and connection. Shocking and moving all at once, this is one of the most unusual crime novels you’ll ever read. --Joanne Wilkinson
“… pack[s] in so much depth…a testament to the author’s ability to spin layers of meaning in deceptively simple prose.”
“…an elegantly crafted philosophical meditation on the meaning of life…the real star of this novel is the human voice itself—convincing, justifying, exploring, sometimes rambling, sometimes sharply focused, looking for certainty, yet knowing it’s a rarity…an illuminating little parable about self-deception and revelation.”
“Hollon is one of Alabama’s best kept literary secrets…he continues to put his own singular spin on the legacy left behind by his Southern forebears…[and] brilliantly composes new lyrics for the old, dark songs sung by those who came before him, Southern masters like Robert Penn Warren and William Faulkner.”
—The Anniston Star
Top customer reviews
James Early Winwood's narrative is a confession of sorts, but not told for any need to get a burden off his chest. Placidly, his life is revealed to us in four parts: his teenage years and college experience, young adulthood, middle age, and growing old. Each part consists of relating a series of plot points and pondering their depth: "There is so much to notice if you know what to look for. So much to be aware of around you." He attempts to make this point very early on, to make his project clear for the rest of the novel. His discussion of fishing --- where he claims that rather than catching a fish, "the importance seemed to lie in the silence" --- doesn't leave much to the imagination.
Probably Hollon's most remarkable way of achieving this so-called narrative of silence is through his descriptions via negation. To convey the power of emotions, he describes their indescribability; instead of facing up to the truth or to awkwardness, his characters blurt out statements, the banality of which exposes the depth of their feelings. Other times their silence speaks more than their dialogue. While it could be argued that this is just a cop-out way of generating emotional intensity with little real work --- and sometimes it feels that way --- it also does a wonderful job at pulling the double duty of conveying the theme while also painting an emotional portrait.
That being said, the novel is fraught with several flaws. While the story progresses naturally, the way it is told (plot and intermission, repeat) is tiresome and uninventive. It also appears to question the very premise of the work, which seems like it ought to be dedicated to a microscopic analysis of tiny, insignificant moments. Instead, the plot-based narrative tells a story with much less rumination than would be expected. And while we get fairly good insight into Winwood's psychology, the reader may be left wanting more.
The impact of these issues will ultimately be decided by the reader's tolerance for slow pacing and repetitive storytelling, especially if one is willing to sort out the gems of concise, powerful prose that are scattered throughout the novel. But a more fundamental problem is its uninventiveness. Thornton Wilder covered much of this topic 80 years ago with OUR TOWN, and THE WAIT contributes little new material to the subject. It's primarily concerned with stating its point --- again, with utmost honesty --- but little else.
Nevertheless, if the reader is willing to look past all this, he should prepare to meet Early Winwood, shake his hand, and cheer and mourn his triumphs and mistakes.
--- Reviewed by Max Falkowitz
Hollon generally writes ambitious, smart, layered novels with the kind of thematic focus that fans of John Updike and Robert Penn Warren will appreciate, and THE WAIT may be well be his finest work to date.