I was hesitant about my ARC of Mark Sarvas’ Harry, Revised. Sometimes, your host here tends to overthink things and get mired in indecision. What if I think it’s crap? Shouldn’t I be honest about that? Worse, what if I think it’s really great? The last thing I want to read about is some assclown pointing to my thoughts about the book as evidence of book-blog incest. (Is this still a book-blog?) So, to avoid any confusion, let’s be clear right up front:
I’m sleeping with Mark Sarvas!*
I finished reading Harry, Revised the other night. Thought it started a bit slow, unsure of the direction it was going to go in, but by the end – and I stayed up late reading the last 75 or so pages – I couldn’t help but be appreciative of the work and thought that went into it. I just wrote about Kidd’s mishandling of the hard subject matter around Milgram’s experiments; Sarvas’ challenge isn’t to capture the emotion around an experiment, but around a man who has lost his wife. I liked his slow, methodical trip into Harry’s eventual collapse – early on, I was one-eyebrow-raised about this guy’s extracurricular activities, thinking it "unrealistic" that he’d be doing all these different things when his wife just died. And I know about the stages of grief, about the power of the mind to seal away terribly painful things in strange ways. I just didn’t think Sarvas had given us enough, at that early point in the book, to make it seem okay that Harry was doing these things.
Looking back, it all fits together very realistically – Harry’s character flaws match up with his hamhanded (at times) attempts at putting one foot in front of the other after a tremendous loss. The difficulties their marriage faced inform the decisions he makes to try and cope, even as he’s completely shut off to the entire loss. He’s coping with only the slightest indication of what it is he’s got to cope with, and that seems only as real and normal as such a loss could get. Plus, the book has genuine funny bits that don’t feel like they were shoehorned in, it’s got the "crush on the barista/diner waitress/bookstore clerk with the hair and the tattoo, oh my" that I just know (and Mark just knew) you could relate to, it’s got ideas on friendship, pugilism, bicycling (shocker, right!) and love, none of which hit you over the head as Big Ideas. So, I liked it. You will, too.
* …’s book next to my bed. It always takes me a few days to shelve a book after I finish it, longer if I enjoyed it. My side of the bed, they pile up. Twice a year, they all get shelved.