Review

Ash Wednesday

by Ethan Hawke



My brother and I have conversations about Ethan Hawke all the time
because he is always reminded of me when he sees Ethan Hawke and
vice versa. So, we talk about Hawke's movies (my brother's favorite
is A Midnight Clear. Me, being the literary type, must
choose Dead Poets Society), his roles (Hamlet, Ishmael
Chambers in Snow Falling on Cedars, etc.) and now it seems
we can talk more about his books. Hawke's first novel, THE HOTTEST
STATE, about young love and heartache in New York, was a passable
debut. He returns to the novel form with ASH WEDNESDAY about, well,
young love and heartache.

Poor Jimmy Heartsock. He's had a rough time of it. His father
committed suicide, he and his mom never really got along, he went
to the Army because he couldn't think of much better things to do
(except getting high on drugs, which he does frequently) and he
just broke up with his girlfriend Christy. Not knowing what to do,
where he is, or where he wants to be in life, Jimmy goes AWOL, does
his best to win Christy back, and then hops into his Chevy Nova and
drives off to Texas together with Christy. It's a road trip book
filled with all the supposed introspection and philosophical
internal mumblings that go along with such things. Add to that
Christy's accidental pregnancy, and the book continues on with
cliché-riddled dialogue, quick weddings, getting arrested, and
that one time when Jimmy plays basketball with punky kids and then
pontificates for pages and pages about John Starks and the New York
Knicks basketball team.

Told in alternating points of view (Jimmy's and Christy's) the
novel continues with the roughness Hawke likes to put into his
books (sex and four letter words and the thoughts young adults have
when they're straddling that line of childhood and adulthood). Can
Jimmy be an adult, responsible and responsive to Christy's needs?
Can they find happiness at the end of their road trip? Is Christy
really going to put up with him for that long? These are the
questions the reader has.

Hawke tries at least. It's one of those books that is written just
well enough for you to finish it, but after you're done you ask
yourself why you finished it. The characters are just interesting
enough to pique your curiosity about what will happen next, but the
way the characters talk --- "'I didn't think I was a virgin when I
got married either,' Chance said. 'But having sexual intercourse
does not a hymen break, my friend,'" --- and think --- "You are
nothing, I chanted to myself, and that made me feel better," ---
make you want to slap them (or at least the slap the book
shut).

I still like Ethan Hawke, don't get me wrong. I appreciate his
passion for his work. Whether it be starring in a movie, directing
a movie like Chelsea Walls, or writing a novel, he does so
with his utmost efforts and strongest convictions. Sometimes,
though, his efforts fall short of their intended goal. After
finishing ASH WEDNESDAY I've decided that I'll be looking for Ethan
Hawke's latest at the local cineplex rather than on the shelves of
my favorite bookstore.

Reviewed by Jonathan Shipley on January 20, 2011

Ash Wednesday
by Ethan Hawke

  • Publication Date: July 23, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 037541326X
  • ISBN-13: 9780375413261