Book: A Hole in the Earth

Title: A Hole in the Earth
Author: Robert Bausch
Genre: Narrative Fiction
Length: 368 pgs

A Hole in the Earth by Robert Bausch is a first-person narrative about “the summer” as described by Henry Porter, the narrator and main character. A middle school history teacher with a penchant for gambling, Porter is a divorce who has not seen his daughter Nicole in five years, which makes her about seventeen. The school year has just ended, and Porter is on his way out the door to the race track to make a couple bucks when Nicole shows up at his door with her friend, Sam. That same day, Porter’s girlfriend of three years Elizabeth begins to act strangely, and she soon reveals that she is pregnant. What starts out as a series of unexpected events leads to the inner-workings of a quiet man; Porter’s narrative tells us everything he cannot or does not say, and how that can make or break his relationships with the people around him.

Excerpts:
pg 31 – I think women are more conscious of what their faces are doing than men are. I think they know when they are smiling, and they use expressions of wonder and awe on purpose. I tihnk women bestow smiles when they want to give a person something of value. And finally, I think most men don’t know this. So millions of smiles go to waste, and women spend a lot of time talking to themselves about how unobservant men are.

pg 35 – What truly troubled me, though, was being awake. Having to pile up the hours each day, worrying about money, hoping Elizabeth would call, and praying she would not, feeling alone even when I was with her, because there was never anything to say.

pg 36 – I didn’t know if I loved her. Since Catherine left me, I hadn’t thought about love at all. I hate to say the word, and I tihnk people overuse it so much that it has lost its radiance. It’s now a very ordinary, common thing. Like lint. Or paper clips. Nevertheless, some days were awful because I realized I might not see Elizabeth.
And then again, sometimes I was terrified I would see her.

pg 124 – [Love] may be the most transient thing on earth. More transient than hate — which requires so much energy it eventually wears out and turns to a kind of burned-out forgiveness. Most people feel more charitable toward a person they used to hate than one they used to love.

pg 131 – Now I’m at the age where [my father] thinks he has the answer to that question. According to my father, our generation gave the world: Ronald Reagan, the National Organization for Women, political correctness, a significant and intractable drug problem that won’t go away, video games, music TV, game shows, Prince, Madonna, porn video, action movies, sports celebrities, miniseries, the sound bite, computer-generated mail, toxic waste, Geraldo Rivera, and AIDS.
That’s it.

Why should you read this book?
I liked this book. This is actually the first book in a long time where I stayed up until 4 am because I wanted to finish reading it, which was both pleasing and exhausting. Being a female, reading about a man’s mind is of course intriguing, but the way Bausch writes Henry Porter, I feel like I know the man, or that I have known him, or that I might know him. Bausch makes his characters seem real, human, tragic. And that’s why I suggest you might want to read this book. When reading this book, you feel as though you’re part of a conversation, and that each chapter is merely another session of sitting with Henry at your local coffee shop as you talk about what happened this past summer.

For the writers, you should read this book if you are looking for examples of throwing a lot of craziness at your character, and how to make his or her reaction plausible. Every once in a while, I think Bausch gets a little too wrapped up in Porter’s thoughts, but then again, I was reading with the rest of my family in the room so they were distracting me a bit. Once alone, I thought the pacing was perfect for the story. To be succint, read this book for an example of good pacing, an interesting story, and well-crafted prose. All around, a great read.