Let me state at the outset that THE SURVIVOR is by far Gregg Hurwitz’s best novel to date. There will be multiple fistfights over the film rights, and deservedly so, because this book has it all: pathos, humor, romance, character, and, oh yeah, a bit of violence as well. It’s a story of coming of age, redemption, bravery and valor, incredibly well-written, and fully and sharply developed.
Some books have endings that make you sad. I was sad because THE SURVIVOR ended; I wanted it to go on forever. Nothing does, though, as is made clear from almost the very beginning of the novel, which introduces us to a man who is about to commit suicide. Nate Overbay, a combat veteran, is standing on a ledge and about to jump. We don’t immediately learn why; what we do find out is that Nate seems to be a pretty nice guy. He even takes the time to scope out a jump site and place a dumpster underneath himself so that whoever has to handle his remains doesn’t have too much of a mess to clean up.
"Let me state at the outset that THE SURVIVOR is by far Gregg Hurwitz’s best novel to date.... this book has it all: pathos, humor, romance, character, and, oh yeah, a bit of violence as well. It’s a story of coming of age, redemption, bravery and valor, incredibly well-written, and fully and sharply developed."
But just as he is about to do his Peter Pan, Nate is interrupted by a gang of masked hoodlums who are pulling off a brazen bank robbery in an upper floor branch bank. He sees them through the window and is appalled by their callous disregard for the lives of innocents. He intercedes, and by the time the dust settles and the smoke clears, there are five bad guys down. One escapes, but not before warning Nate that he will regret his actions. Nate becomes the hero of the day, though he is still intent on ending it all, and resolves to do so that very evening.
What would make a person so determined to kill themselves? The answer to that question is one of the ticking clocks that Hurwitz sets up so cleverly here. There is one thing standing in his way: that bank robbery wasn’t really a bank robbery. The man who hired the team didn’t want money; he wanted an object. He lets Nate know in no uncertain terms that since Nate interfered in the retrieval of that object, it will be up to Nate to retrieve it himself.
So you might ask: How do you threaten a guy who is ready to end his own life? The answer is that you threaten someone else’s, who, in this case, is Nate’s estranged daughter and wife. That’s the other ticking clock; Nate has five days to do the impossible, and with each passing day, he is less likely to do it. In the meantime, he has a dead friend and a guilty conscience urging him on as well. Nate is only one guy, though. How is he going to get himself out of this? That is the question the book answers so well, and you never will want the story to end.
In addition to being a master novelist, Hurwitz has written several screenplays and a number of critically and commercially acclaimed graphic novels. However, it is THE SURVIVOR that is going to make him a household name. You heard it here first.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 30, 2012