The Obsession of Henry Enright

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Nov 2019

Member Reviews

Wonderful characters. Interesting plot. Vivid descriptions. A worthwhile read.

*I received a complimentary ARC of this book from NetGalley & BooksGoSocial in order to read and provide a voluntary and honest review, should I choose to do so.

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Henry Enright is a regular guy telling his story.  He could be you or me.  Henry talks about childhood, mean nuns and soft spoken nuns at catholic school,  the humiliation of being clobbered by a bully half his size, a  horror he witnesses as a teen, his high school girl, marriage, kids, the job, responsibilities, bills, the daily grind and always thinks back to those days as a boy.  Henry tells these stories as though he's sitting across from you just talking.  It's like the conversation you have where, at first you might think "oh, he's going to keep talking" and then you quickly think, "I hope he keeps talking, I want to hear more".  
I found myself identifying with Henry.  I'm 59 and often wonder when my "real life" is going to start.  The real life that I think will be free of resentment, annoyance, sadness, loneliness, aching.  
Then I came to the final chapter.   No spoilers.  I'll just say that yes, the final chapter brings with it the epiphany and when you're done hearing Henry's story you'll walk away feeling lighter.  Forgiveness does that.
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While initially drawn in by merely the title of the novel (or to be more specific the titular character) I am glad to say that the book was enjoyable for many reasons other than an interesting name.

The story spans decades, using memories, conversations and so on to detail Henry's life to this point. It is reflective, trying to figure out was there any point that his life significantly changed or is there something missing which has affected where he has found his life culminating to at this time. For readers of a certain age, this reminiscent look back at hometown influence, growing up and how that shapes us will be a familiar, if even slightly, feeling. As someone who also grew up in a Catholic family and neighbourhood, this element resonated with me too. 

The novel is unapologetic in looking at Henry's life - it opens with a memory of having to identify some of his classmates after a fatal crash - and is a wonderful, if at times uncomfortable, exploration of life.

With thanks to Netgalley for the copy of this for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
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I give this book 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.

"Suppose there is a God. Why does he allow such inequality and pain and sadness and devastating loneliness?" Such is Henry Enright's lifelong puzzlement as he grapples with, apparently irreversible, depression; "I live like a mental cripple while other men go free. It comes in black waves." It is certainly true that he has plenty to tackle; particularly in the early years of his life, and the knock on effect is barbaric medical experimentation and intervention despite his young age.

And yet, despite all this angst, Henry's tale is a wholly readable and endearing one. He is charming and likeable and believable; his friendships and first relationship, convincing. Lorden writes with evident fondness and sympathy for his characters, demonstrating sincerity at moments of tragedy and humour at the pitfalls of human interaction as well as human nature; ""everybody called it "Nick's Bus". He shifted gears, sang songs, and gave advice, whether you wanted it or not. His favourite advice was "Don't be a damn bus driver,". Or, another example: "I knelt in a pew and thought about my sins. There was no way I could remember them all but I put together a list of highlights."

My reservations come in relation to the later portion of the narrative where Henry struggles with his depression and explores religion as a possible solution. Though it is true that his parents (particularly his mother) believe, and that his father sends him many miles to a Catholic school, I felt that the ultimate focus of peace and redemption through faith, meant something was lost: it isn't in his human bonds  (so much of which the story focusses on) that he tries to stagger back onto his feet and so, for me, it felt like the author changed tack.

Nevertheless, this book is an endearing read and I am grateful to Netgalley and the publisher for sharing an advance copy with me in return for my honest opinion.
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Great read. The author wrote a story that was interesting and moved at a pace that kept me engaged. The characters were easy to invest in.
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An interesting book that works like a view of life in each chapter. This book has believable dialogue too.
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