Paul Hawkin's is one of my favorite writers. Part of it is being in the same demographic with him. About the same age, same part of the country, ancient and liturgical faith, etc. I relate and recognize so much of what he expresses in my own experiences and memory. We come from a time when the future held such promise. The space age was upon us, next stop...progress!
The protagonist, Clayton "Clay" Westbrooke is a man who seemed to have it all together, only to find himself in a world in which he struggles to make sense. Has the world changed, or has he? Is he a like the proverbial fly stuck in amber? It's a bit of both and it's hard not to root for Clay, even when we learn of his own foilables. No one is perfect.
The author brings a dry wit that I find appealing as he re-lives his life and you see what happens to a city and it's people. All from the point of view a Catholic in sea of Fundamentalists in the Bible Belt. Central planning which promises progress only leads to blight until the rich come in to "re-vitalize" which is code for moving the unlovely out of sight. "In the end it's always about the land."
Clay is a brilliant man who has trouble seeing the forest for the trees. The trees are the little details of his life that perhaps he didn't pay enough attention to since he was a big picture guy with drive and vision. Only now it's time for a reckoning. The struggle with the mental illness with his son Robert - will he be able to reconnect in a meaningful way? Will he find new love? Will dedicating much of his time and treasure to helping others help ease pain?
My only quibble is that I'm left wanting more. But that's what happens with a well written short story. I hope he can dedicate more time to fleshing out the rich characters presented. Take the time and read this. You won't regret it!
Paul Hawkins has written a marvelous novella that I commend to you all. It is called "A Quite Place of One's Own". While Paul would not on his own call one of his works “the great American novel”, it is certainly in this vein. What we have here is an author of great literary skill and as a fellow Okie one who is quite knowledgeable about this time period (1939) and this part of the country, its people and its quirks. To me, that’s the very definition of a great American novel (though technically a novella).