Paul O'Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn't know how to live in it. Read more...
Paul O'Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn't know how to live in it. He's a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God. Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online "Paul" might be a better version of the real thing. As Paul's quest to learn why his identity has been stolen deepens, he is forced to confront his troubled past and his uncertain future in a life disturbingly split between the real and the virtual. At once laugh-out-loud funny about the absurdities of the modern world, and indelibly profound about the eternal questions of the meaning of life, love and truth, TO RISE AGAIN AT A DECENT HOUR is a deeply moving and constantly surprising tour de force.
Book Clubs: A virtual doppelgÃ¤nger
Joshua Ferris’ dazzling third novel, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, is a masterfully crafted work of black humor that will please fans of his acclaimed debut, Then We Came to the End. New York dentist Paul O’Rourke, the novel’s protagonist, is a full-fledged curmudgeon who has forsworn social media. He isn’t out to win any popularity contests with his patients or anyone else, and so the appearance on the Internet of a site dedicated to his practice comes as a true surprise, as do the Twitter and Facebook accounts in his name that follow. Unsettled and angry, Paul sets out to find the party responsible for establishing his unwanted online presence, a quest that brings him into contact with a bizarre religious group. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in a book that explores the nature of contemporary relationships, the quest for identity and the complexities of communication. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, this hilarious, probing, complex book is sure to spur lively conversation among reading groups.
BUFFETED BY WAR
Set in World War II-era San Francisco, Lisa See’s China Dolls traces the lives of three young Asian-American women who embark on careers in an exotic nightclub called the Forbidden City. Each of the women trades a troubled past for a future of glitzy possibility: Grace Lee wants to escape from her violent father; Ruby Tom is chasing dreams of fame; and Helen Fong seeks release from an oppressive home life. The three of them meet with varying degrees of success as performers at the club. Though they share similar ambitions and a strong sisterly bond, the three nurse suspicions of one another. When the war begins, their friendship shatters. Ruby, who is of Japanese descent but has been passing as Chinese, is sent to an internment camp. As the war escalates, the women find they must adapt themselves to a world that will never be the same. See’s portrayal of the dynamics and drama that enliven female relationships makes for compelling reading. This is a captivating work of historical fiction that satisfies on every level.
TOP PICK IN BOOK CLUBS
With Redeployment, which captured the 2014 National Book Award for fiction, Phil Klay offers up 12 powerful stories about the Iraq War. Klay served in the conflict as a Marine Corps public affairs officer, and his work has the sort of immediacy and intensity that can only come from first-hand experience. Each of these first-person tales has a different narrator; each provides a unique perspective on the experience of war. In the book’s title story, a soldier returns home after a seven-month absence, and the difficulties that ensue as he readjusts to civilian life range from humorous to heartbreaking. “Unless It’s a Sucking Chest Wound” features a disillusioned veteran who makes his way through law school only to ponder a public-service career path after graduation. Klay writes with consistent authority about life at the frontlines and its inescapable repercussions. There’s no romanticism in these searing stores, just honesty, passion and skill—lots of skill.