Being Henry David - Cal Armistead

"The last thing I remember is now. Now, coming at me with heart-pounding fists. My eyes shoot open, and there is too much. Of everything. Blurred figures, moving. White lights. Muffled waves of sound. Voices. Music. Chaos" (1).  So begins this intriguing tale of a young man who awakens in Penn Station one afternoon with no memory of how he got there, who he is, or why he's holding a copy of Henry David Thoreau's Walden

While wandering through the train station, he meets a young man named Jack (and later Jack's sister, Nessa) who eventually gives him the name Hank. As Hank tries to remember his old life, he associates with a drug dealer, takes part in a Battle of the Bands competition, and attempts to piece together his life and past with the help of a wonderfully talented and tattooed research librarian / Thoreau interpreter, in Concord, MA, where he begins his search for clues at Walden Pond. 

Armistead's prose are swift and spare, moving the story forward with great urgency from the first page. Though there are moments of excessive reliance on Thoreau's work (in my opinion), the text is a beautiful and moving piece of fiction. The characters are fully realized, even secondary characters, and the only fault (though that seems a strong word) that I can find, is the sheer number of tragedies that seem to befall Hank and his family throughout the novel--They are possibly the unluckiest family I've read about in recent years. Aside from that however, I definitely recommend this book.



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