Tom is an ordinary man trying to figure out what he wants to do. As the novel opens, he’s living in Houston, working as a mechanic in his uncle’s garage and hanging out with his guy friends at bars. After he meets Sara, a beautiful, kind and ambitious woman who takes an interest in him, Tom marries her, leaves his job at the garage and follows her to New York, hoping for the best. However, he finds that marriage is not all he had imagined; he misses both his friends and the “uniquely satisfying feeling of putting something together the right way with his hands.” As he matures, Tom continues to seek out roots and a real, lasting connection in a time of increasing fragmentation. Hendricks touches a nerve by evocatively capturing a contemporary moment of confusion and disconnection. Tom’s dilemmas feel real and moving as he follows the steps he feels he’s supposed to yet still feels confused and lost as he searches for happiness. The pacing of the novel is a little off, though, and despite a few soul-searching conversations, the endgame isn’t entirely clear. Basically, not much happens in the novel—not that that’s always a bad thing, but there are moments in which the narrative arc seems muddled and directionless. Too many times Tom ponders something like, “I guess…it was those connections with people that I wanted most and had never been able to find” or “Christ, had I ever had an original thought?” Readers may grow impatient with the repetitive musings that occur at the expense of plot and character development. The twist at the end of the novel, when it does occur, feels a little tacked-on and abrupt. Yet ultimately, the question at the heart of the story—is it possible to find true meaning and connection in the grind of ordinary existence?—is one that resonates.
A quiet but complex novel of finding meaning in daily life.