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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Ben Schrank, who made his debut in 1999 with Miracle Man, has a penchant for exploring the peaks and valleys of the human psyche. This, his sophomore novel, uses the mystical legend of the Golem -- a clay statue given life to defend persecuted Jews in 16th-century Prague -- as the solder for an interpersonal, dysfunctional matrix forged of lust, brutality, longing, and betrayal.
For the narrator, divorced doctoral student Mike Zabusky, the Golem is both friend and fiend, and the thrust of his doctoral thesis, which he’s writing under the auspices of his domineering, controlling adviser, Matthew Weingarden. What Mike doesn’t realize is that neither he nor his love interest, Katherine Staresina, can escape Weingarden’s prickly clutches even in the midst of their most torrid sexual throes. However, once the hapless student’s father commits suicide, and the course of his affair with Katherine -- who is wild, frustrating, and scarred by her sister’s murder some years ago -- spins to the outer limits of chaos, Mike must ascertain who, or what, is in control of his life.
Through intense character interplay and bright, uncluttered prose, Schrank captures all the competitiveness, claustrophobia, and codependence that sometimes prevail between student and mentor, lover and lover. Unmitigated male urges that are easily ridiculed -- everything from ardent impromptu copulation to indiscriminate destruction -- are endowed by the author with a kind of ignoble dignity and a regal wretchedness. While downright callous and sadistic creatures are seemingly given free rein here, sympathetic humanity, however controlled and confused, achieves a countervailing power: the will to succeed. Ultimately, Consent is a story of hope. (Will Romano)