From the actor and writer Ethan Hawke: a piercing novel of love, marriage, and renewal.Jimmy is AWOL from the army, but-with characteristic fierceness and terror-he's about to embark on the biggest commitment of his life. Christy is pregnant with Jimmy's child, and she's determined to head home, with or without Jimmy, to face up to her past and prepare for the future. Somehow, barreling across America from Albany to New Orleans to Ohio and Texas in a souped-up Chevy Nova, Christy and Jimmy are transformed from passionate but conflicted lovers into a young family on a magnificent journey.Ash Wednesday is a novel of blazing emotion and remarkable grace, a tale that captures the intensity-the excitement, fear, and joy-of being on the threshold of the mysterious country of marriage and parenthood. Powerful, assured, large of heart, and punctuated by moments of tremendous humor, it represents, for Hawke the novelist, a major leap forward.
Sure he can act (and direct), but can he write Readers and critics remained undecided after the publication of Hawke's first novel, The Hottest State, but most will respond with an encouraging "yes" to his enjoyable second novel, which melds believable youthful introspection to a catchy road-novel plot. Jimmy Heartsock, AWOL from the army, and his pregnant girlfriend, Christy, are the young couple caught between love and disillusionment whose path to self-discovery is punctuated by passion ("This girl had a friggin' fireball for a heart") as well as endearing quirkiness. Jimmy is posted in Albany, N.Y., and waffling in his affections, when Christy gives him an ultimatum: she's going home to Texas and he can either come with her or forget about seeing her again. Taking the biggest gamble of his life, he decides to make the drive with her in his old Chevy Nova, risking dishonorable discharge. Christy, who is afraid to face who she is ("Good morning, fear.... You are my oldest friend") and only feels calm when she is moving, steps on her own path to self-renewal after meeting a blind man on a bus who speaks of change and the possibility of transcendence through God. The two protagonists must each learn to step out of themselves, find "gratitude in the face of loss or suffering" and submit to a love that is attuned to reality before they can find a home with and for each other. Hawke's text at times reads raw, but the novel's conversational tone, dual first-person narration and, above all, direct exploration of the simple truths of life and love make this a worthwhile tale and an honest one, sufficient to make most readers look forward to Hawke's next. (July 23) Forecast: Hawke proves himself with this sophomore effort, which should easily sell out its 100,000 first printing. Beware crushes (in both senses) on his 11-city author tour. Major ad/promo.Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2001
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Excerpt from Ash Wednesday by Ethan Hawke
Introducing James Heartsock
I was driving a '69 Chevy Nova 370 four-barrel with mag wheels and a dual exhaust. It's a kick-ass car. I took the muffler out so it sounds like a Harley. People love it. I was staring at myself through the window into the driver's-side mirror; I do that all the time. I'll stare into anything that reflects. That's not a flattering quality, and I wish I didn't do it, but I do. I'm vain as all hell. It's revolting. Most of the time when I'm looking in the mirror, I'm checking to see if I'm still here or else I'm wishing I was somebody else, a Mexican bandito or somebody like that. I have a mustache. Most guys with mustaches look like fags, but I don't. I touch mine too much, though. I touch it all the time. I don't even know why I'm telling you about it now. I just stare at myself constantly and I wish I didn't. It brings me absolutely no pleasure at all.
My fingers were frozen around the steering wheel. Albany in February is a black sooty slab of ice. The woman on the radio announced the time and temperature: eight-forty-two and twenty-three degrees. Christy and I had broken up fifteen hours earlier, and I was in a tailspin. I had my uniform on, the dress one; it's awesome. Military uniforms make you feel like somebody, like you have a purpose, even if you don't. You feel special, connected to the past. You're not just an ordinary person, a civilian -- you're noble. The downside of this Walk of Pride is, it's a lie.
This is my story.
My orders were unbelievable, my lieutenant is an out-of-control high-speed prick. This was his job. I had to inform some dude's wife that her husband had been shot in the head. The soldier's name was Private Kevin Anderson, and he'd been killed outside of Paradise the night before. Paradise is a bar where all the black dudes hang: probably drugs or some kind of bullshit high jinks. I didn't know him at all.
Not to mention, I was all cracked up myself. I hadn't been to sleep, doing speed all night: crystal meth. Breaking up with Christy had been a giant mistake; I knew it the minute I walked away.
The army is more lamebrain than you can even imagine. My lieutenant sometimes has me and my men go into town and stand guard over parking spots: securing position. I joined up because I wanted to be of service to something. I'd tried college, Kent State, for two years but screw that. Who wants to pay all that coin just to drink beer and get VD? My dad had been in the army, and I grew up constantly drawing pictures of machine guns and soldiers killing the hell out of one another -- shit like that -- so I thought joining the army made sense. I figured it was my destiny, and it was, but just because something's your destiny doesn't mean it's gonna be any good.
I thought maybe someday I'd be in a Dairy Queen and some bonzo lunatic would whip out an automatic and start wasting people, and I'd be the one guy there who'd be able to stop him, who'd show some signs of personal heroism or integrity. There are a lot of people in the world. It's difficult to find a way to set yourself apart. When I was twelve, I built a working crossbow with bolts I could sink into a tree. That's about the coolest thing I've ever done.
Now, the only thing interesting or worthy of remark about me was my car. It was tits: silver with bold black racing stripes straight down the center. I never had any trouble getting laid.
I was hauling ass through north Albany into the "darker" part of town looking for this Anderson kid's address: 23761/2 Hawthorne, apartment B. I had all his information in a folder on the passenger seat. The streets were icy and lined with piles of crusty pollution-stained snow. I found the house easy, a big old place divided up into eight apartments. All the homes on the block were done the exact same way. Once upon a time this was the swank part of town -- about eighty trillion years ago.