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Walden Paperback – September 15, 2006
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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For a young boy, growing up surrounded and smothered by his father s shadow is a Herculean feat that requires resolve to the extreme in order to transcend the mythical bonds imparted. Growing up in a shadow that begins with father and extends back through time to innumerable generations creates an impossibly hopeless situation with extrication from within unlikely. When all factors combine to encompass not only family name cum legacy cum massive community recognition one could say the obstacles surrounding such a boy are most unfortunate indeed. As we meet the protagonist of this tale at the moment of his birth, where he, first crawled out from in between Mother s legs, we encounter a child whose grief package was evidently deemed to be not enough. Born into a towering monolith of a family with the surname, Walden, our unwilling hero is bequeathed the name Walden, first name Walden, surname Walden, official name Walden XXIII or minus the birthright tag: Walden Walden. Egads! This boy has not so much inherited a name and heritage as a lifelong stint on the psychiatrist s couch. Yet despair not, the journey has only begun. Born the fifth child of a quintuplet birth and being the only male child of that lot brings him face forward into a world where the repeat taunts and pranks of his dear sisters Maddy, Maureen, Michaela and Molly make his a miserable and insecure world. All builds from here in building block fashion culminating in a Fourth of July family gathering that becomes for young Walden his defining moment of trauma. Laying out the tale s events in this brief outline fashion makes this appear a gut wrenching tear rending crusher to equal a world class Soap Opera. But the tale unfolds in such a light tongue in cheek style that it makes the grief minimally invasive and not viscerally painful. So after this rickety beginning what torment can possibly lie in wait for young Walden? As Walden enters Walden College, a stranger to no professor or administrator, his legacy leads and follows him into the soul crushing world of academia. From here things take a decided roller coaster turn allowing Walden some much needed mischief making and mold breaking. Walden is a coming of age tale like none preceding it. Told with a wit, style and panache of a born satirist, Dolan offers a tale neatly rolled and bundled in a gestalt of life s manifold sorrows and joys. Best of all, the book can be read in one sitting leaving time to indulge in the nightly Soap Opera if one so desires. Visit the world of Walden in this marvelous story served up by Michael Dolan. It is a visit you will not regret. --Mad Hatters' Review
Not only will college students indentify with Walden, but readers of all ages will, too, as it communicates the universal struggle toward the individual... Dolan has created an ideal read for a diverse audience connected by this common search. --Villanova Magazine
4 STARS! Walden entertainingly explores how one student ignores the typical route of acceptance, and leads his own personal uprising against his university and family... --The Daily Orange
About the Author
Michael T. Dolan is a writer from West Chester, PA. His work regularly appears in newspapers and magazines across the country. WALDEN is his first novel.
Top customer reviews
This is not a bad thing.
But the important thing to remember is that Dolan, with his ambivalent and angst-ridden title character, has brought the oft-told tale of the young man at sea in his own life into the 21st century and made it fresh and razor sharp.
His modern observations on college life, the trials of adjusting to a roommate, dorm bullies, the obligations of wealth and first love (and sex) add new facets that Salinger, entrenched as he was in the world of post World War II America, could never imagine.
Like Salinger's Holden Caulfield, Walden is privileged, white and pissed off. He's a freshman at the unnamed University after graduating from the similarly anonymous Prep, and is the latest in a long line of academic legacies bearing the Walden name. One ancestor wrote the school's alma mater and subsequently had a dormitory named after him -- the one where our hero resides - and Walden must labor under the burden of that history every day.
He still bears the scars of a youth in which he was forced by his father to perform that same alma mater in a family dog-and-pony show -- along with his siblings and cousins -- to prove his worth to his grandfather, the eldest surviving Walden, with tragic results for both. The incident, recounted early in the story, provides a striking glimpse at why he regards his name with such disdain and tries so hard to work against the reputation his father would prefer he uphold.
Attending the University entirely out of family obligation, he applies little focus to his studies, has made few friends and strives every day to spurn the legacy that landed him there in the first place. He encounters the everyday bits of modern college life, mercilessly deconstructing them into their most basic elements. Dolan eschews caricatures, but his cast of supporting characters will be instantly and amusingly recognizable to anyone who has experienced higher education in the last 20 years.
Walden's only glimmer of joy among what he sees as a carnival of pointless pursuits and relationships is his not-yet girlfriend, Brook, who he objectifies and romanticizes in a way only a love-struck (and relatively inexperienced) young man can. Dolan captures these feelings and relates them with Swiss precision and aching honesty.
"Walden" is, like "Catcher," the story of a young man caught in the machine of conformity and struggling to find a way to distinguish himself from his contemporaries, most prisoners themselves. It brutally and often humorously conveys the pain and the struggle of someone never given the opportunity to find himself who consequently goes to extreme lengths to do so.
Discovering who he is and breaking free from that machine come at a monumental cost in the end, but during this journey - which becomes a combination expose and cautionary tale - it's easy to glimpse a great deal of ourselves in Walden's suffering, struggle and eventual survival.