To Rise Again at A Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (4 out of 5)
Believe it or not, this is the smallest image of the book cover I can find. ^
I like Joshua Ferris. This book has great buzz going around it (early reviewers and bloggers) before its release on May 13, 2014. The great buzz is well earned. Only a few things kept it from being a five star book for me. I enjoyed it enough that it will go up on the recommends when it is released.
Paul O’ Rourke is a dentist who is on the merry-go-round of contradiction. He does his job diligently and well, advising his patients to be diligent in their care of their teeth and overall oral health, although he smokes like a chimney. He’s not a fan of the modern day world, not wanting to put up a website for the dental practice, but take him away from his Iphone and Ipad, and it gets ugly. He claims to be an atheist, yet he’s the person telling jokes at parties about Jewish people and God. He speaks with true confusion of why his relationships have ended like they have, yet some of the reasons they had show themselves in his semi-stalking of the exes. He’s a Boston Red Sox fan who gets upset when they win- he’s a (pardon the Green Day reference) a walking contradiction. This semi-prophetic hypocrisy is an open field to a host of anxiety. Paul is a walking prescription for Zoloft waiting to be filled. That doesn’t improve when someone takes on his identity and starts up the website for the dental practice (the same thing he’s fought his coworkers on for a long ass time). Paul immediately hires someone to trace the owner of the IP address and thinks he has it figured out, so he does the irrational thing and email harasses them in an attempt to get them to cease and desist. In predictable fashion, the opposite happens. Soon, Paul’s virtual self has opened up a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Paul thinks he has figured out whom the culprit is (one of his former patients who spoke oddly of things and of leaving for Israel), but is he right? What happens when his coworkers begin thinking he’s lost his shit, and one by one, begin leaving the practice? What happens when Connie, his most recent ex who works with him, calls him on the carpet about lies he told her that his online ego is now revealing? How does this other person have all this dirt on Paul? Is Paul really manning the virtual puppet as well, or is he really starting to lose his damn mind??? So many questions, all answered in time, and the end, well, leaves more questions than answers.
Here’s the thing I loved. Paul is a hoot. He reminds me of a good male friend of mine who’s questioning everything he’s done with his life, his relationships, and his purpose and place in the world now. The only difference between Paul and my friend is that a lot of Paul’s indecision revolves around religion, and my friend is an agnostic. A LOT of this book raises some very relevant questions about religion and how it applies to one’s life. There is, as I said, a LOT of that. And if I wasn’t warned by the title (it took me until page 87 to figure out the title. Duh). And after a while, I wanted Ferris to get to the point and deliver his sermon to a close. Instead, it continues on until the end. That got aggravating. I feel like some small measure of Paul was sacrificed (or consumed, like a delicious communion wafer) for the religious aspect. Again, given the premise of the book, that stays true. But it made me yawn. A lot. I felt like Paul had some genuinely great moments of dialogue and reckoning, but they got lost in not only the virtual doppelganger, but in his own questions about his religious beliefs. Overall, a great and very realistic character. Entire parts of this book had me laughing and then entire parts of the book made me yell “Get it over with”. I didn’t like the character of Connie. I know I’m supposed to like her, as she once meant a great deal to Paul until he opened his big mouth at a family party and ruined it, but she’s incredibly judgmental. I loved the whole arc of the “Ulms” (way too funny and odd to summarize here). I loved the entire book, except for the posturing back and forth of the religion ball back and forth onto the court. I thought Paul got a rough deal, although, truthfully, he did deserve some of what he sowed, from a lot of the characters in the book. Maybe if he were a little more understood, he wouldn’t have been judged so harshly and swiftly by those around him on a daily basis.
Another thing I really loved was the question that sticks with you throughout the book- is the real, honest-to-goodness Paul better than or worse than the made up virtual version? The virtual Paul comes across as a paragon of virtue, intellect, steadfastness in the questions of morality, love, and religion, whereas the realistic Paul is a mess over any number of things, not limited to, the messes he created on his own. I have to say I went with the real Paul, because he’s right there, warts and all, and not hiding his true identity around someone else’s life and not hiding virtually. ANYONE can hide virtually. The irony that it takes someone in a virtual realm pretending to be Paul, for Paul the real, to come to the realizations that he needs to and adjust his life, is nothing short of a genius master stroke for the book’s moral.
What didn’t I love? All of the freaking religion. I know, I know, I’m going to hell for saying that. I think it’s almost oddly ironic that I really started reading it on Good Friday and finished it on Easter, also. I also, as I stated, wanted to shove a high heel down Connie’s throat half of the book. Do-gooder’s really piss me off. I like those who are troubled souls, for at least they’re open. And what did I REALLY not love? That ending. I can’t tell you how pissed I am about the ending to this book. That’s the third book this month that I loved, until the end. The only thing is that the awesomeness that is this book continues to stay with me, despite the ending, and those other two books had been losing me chapter by chapter, to be totally annihilated by their ending. Happily, not the case with this book. I still love it. I just want to half the amount of religion, except it would kill the point of the story, so that’s not legit. Overall, a great book. A lot of really great questions and dialogue here. Paul is definitely one of my favorite characters this year. I will be recommending this one next month, but I will warn my potential buyers that the end may just make them insane.