Ash Wednesday is Ethan Hawke’s second novel. Yes…that Ethan Hawke, the actor, from Dead Poets Society, Reality Bites, Training Day and a bunch of other movies. The author’s understanding of dramatic structure and ear for dialogue are showcased in this book.
The story is a simple journey with two people going from point A to point B. The two people are Jimmy, an AWOL Army soldier and Christy, his pregnant girlfriend.
The book is similar to John Updike’s Rabbit Run. The protagonist Jimmy is taking his first difficult steps into adulthood. The author uses great dialog and scene imagery to develop the story’s conflicts as Jimmy and Christy journey. While the story is gripping and well written, it is not in the same league as Rabbit Run.
Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison, but the trials Jimmy and Christy go through fail to make them likable characters.
This is a good book, well written and entertaining. I do recommend it. Here is a sample of the dialog:
“I haven’t been home to Texas in eight years”, Christy continued.
“How did that much time go by? I’m a woman now; when did that happen? I’m gonna be a mother.” She was holding her hand to her chest, giving me an expression of disbelief.
“You sure you don’t want any of this?” I asked, holding my burger. More than halfway done with the monstrous thing, I could say with authority that it was excellent. Probably the best burger I ever ate: fresh tomatoes, fresh onions, a gargantuan crisp deli pickle. She shook her head no and went on talking. “I mean, let me tell you this. You hear people talk about whether or not ‘you’ are your body or if ‘you’ are your mind. What your spirit is, right?”
She paused and I nodded.
“Well, let me tell you what you’re not. You are not your body, no way. I mean, my body right now is a carnival and I am not in control of it. You should feel what’s going on inside of me; I’m vibrating like . . . I don’t know, like the fuselage of a crashing plane. OK?”
She smiled at me, set down her spoon, and cradled her belly with both hands. “This body that you see is not me. I’m not doing any of this. Feel my elbow.” She held out her bent arm for me to touch and, laying my hands on her milk-soft skin, I felt her whole joint popping with electricity.