A Hole in the Earth

A Hole in the Earth

5.0 1
by Robert Bausch
     
 

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A novel of families, what tears them apart and what can bring them back together, A Hole in the Earth is an extraordinarily, sometimes excruciatingly accurate portrait of a man charting the foreign territory of his feelings. Henry Porter's summer begins when his daughter Nicole-whom he hasn't seen in five years-shows up on his doorstep. Days later his girlfriend,… See more details below

Overview


A novel of families, what tears them apart and what can bring them back together, A Hole in the Earth is an extraordinarily, sometimes excruciatingly accurate portrait of a man charting the foreign territory of his feelings. Henry Porter's summer begins when his daughter Nicole-whom he hasn't seen in five years-shows up on his doorstep. Days later his girlfriend, Elizabeth, announces that she is pregnant. That Henry is speechless at these two events throws into sharp relief his emotional landscape, and this novel charts that landscape's exact contours. Anyone who has ever wondered what a man is saying when he isn't talking will find at least a large part of the answer here. Robert Bausch deciphers with perfect economy and unstinting honesty the code embodied in this man's (and a great many men's) words and actions, and discovers there the world of family legacies, love, and abuse. A Hole in the Earth brilliantly draws the webs that attract us to and repel us from our families, as well as the enduring strength that they can provide.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"His characters are so real, you want to reach out and touch them. . . . The novel is exciting and exacting. Riveting, too. This one is a winner."-Ann Beattie
"Readers who have been patiently waiting for the real pleasures that only first-rate fiction can offer will rejoice in A Hole in the Earth."-George Garrett
"In matters of family, in the arena governed by the heart's exacting requirements, Robert Bausch has unforgettably given us the rules of the game."-Frederick Busch
Robert Clark
Robert Bausch has written a courageous and beautiful book - moving, tragic, wise, but also starkly and necessarily comic.
Washington Post Book World
New York Times Book Review
A splendid novel, original in the best sense . . . Written with compassion and insight, A Hole in the Earth definitely hits the daily double.
Washington Post Book World
A courageous and beautiful book . . . Moves the literary exploration of manhood . . . onto the shaky and terrifying ground where men's lives are lived.
Denver Post
A beautifully written-sometimes witty, sometimes thoughtful, always provocative-take on life as we live it now.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
If one of the purposes of literature is to illuminate human inconsistencies and frailties, failed attempts to communicate, and redemptive possibilities, this richly rewarding new novel by the author of Almighty Me wins stars in each category. On the verge of turning 40, narrator Henry Porter endures a summer in purgatory. The black sheep of his respected family, he is a grade school history teacher who augments his income by frequenting the race track, an obsession that exasperated his wife, who left him years ago, taking their young daughter, Nicole. Now 18, Nicole turns up on his doorstep in Washington, D.C., throwing Henry into a paroxysm of nervous guilt. Trying to reconcile his feelings of parental failure with his compulsion to bet on the horses, he can barely greet Nicole before he rushes off to make a daily double wager. Then, when his patient and understanding lover, fellow teacher Elizabeth Simmons, tells him she's pregnant, Henry can't cope. He is, indeed, emotionally stunted, trapped in an adolescent limbo caused, he believes, by the abiding disapproval of his father, a well-known judge. Afraid to make a decision, preferring to gamble and let fate decide rather than act decisively, Henry is blind to the implications of his behavior. He resists any suggestion that his gambling addiction might be pernicious. In a plot that develops its rising tension with seamless ease, Henry's lies and evasions catch up with him in a wrenching series of disasters, a nightmare than keeps unrolling until he reaches the nadir of his existence. With a delicacy and subtlety that indicate a mastery of his craft, Bausch captures and sustains the reader's sympathy for self-destructive Henry. At last, in a moving denouement, Henry achieves a transcendent moment of self-worth and connection. Bausch's profound empathy for his characters, his wise understanding that the texture of life is composed of ambiguities, failures, guilt feelings--and a few successes--contributes to a flawlessly expressed novel. Author tour. (Aug.) FYI: Robert Bausch is the twin brother of novelist Richard Bausch. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Set in the Washington, DC, area in the late 1980s, this is the story of a harrowing summer in the life of Henry Porter, a 39-year-old high school history teacher. It begins when Nicole, the estranged daughter he hasn't seen in five years, arrives unexpectedly from California with friend Sam in tow and announces that she plans to stay for the summer. Then, Elizabeth, his longtime girlfriend, tells him that she is pregnant. Facing painfully unresolved issues in his relationship with Nicole, the ambiguities of his relationship with Elizabeth, and the image of his father's perpetual disapproval looming ever larger in his consciousness, Henry quickly spirals toward emotional collapse. Tender and caustic by turns, world-weary, and, ultimately, wise, this is a novel about family ties that both bind and repel and about what it means to, at long last, grow up. Recommended for most public libraries.--Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Will Blythe
[A] splendid novel, original in the best sense -- establishing characters so fresh yet familiar that they might be helping themselves to what's in your refrigerator even as you read about them.
The New York Times Book Review
Bret Anthony Johnston
Henry Porter, the overwhelmed narrator of Bausch's splendid new novel, is handicapping the daily double when the teen-age daughter he has not seen in five years knocks on his door. Nicole's arrival, coupled with Porter's girlfriend's announcement that she is pregnant, proves too much for this high-school history teacher on the verge of turning forty, and he buckles. Skillfully, Bausch sidesteps the pitfalls that often encumber the typical midlife crisis dirge. This moving story does not gloss over the hard, crucial moments of tragedy but builds with rare poise and energy toward a dramatic, compelling climax. Whether confronting Porter's parental failures, the harsh and continued disapproval from his father or his almost paralyzing fears of age and commitment, Bausch has created a novel that is authentic in its gesture and emotion, aching in its beauty and flawless in its telling.
Kirkus Reviews
Mid-life crisis hardly describes the maelstrom that engulfs history teacher Henry Porter in his 39th summer, traced by Bausch (Almighty Me, 1991, etc.) in his finest and most complete novel yet.. Henry's summer should be as aimless as ever—days at the horse track (a passion that putatively cost him wife and daughter), evenings with girlfriend Elizabeth, the occasional existential curveball that his own cigar-chomping personal Fates might hurl his way. But his Fates—one of Henry's strategies to deny that life might have meaning, and that he might have responsibility for it—have more spitballs, sliders, and change-ups than Henry can imagine. Just as the season begins, daughter Nicole shows up unannounced. Five years ago, when he last saw her, she was an obese adolescent; now she's a svelte, vegetarian, high-school graduate. Clumsily, Henry welcomes her—then deserts her for the racetrack. Gambling success equals failure at paternal love, as he cashes in on the daily double. Although he feels guilty about the botched reunion and Nicole's reaction to it, what he should've done always comes to him too late, his mulish feelings lagging significantly behind his actions. A few nights later, the Fates throw a change-up: his girlfriend Elizabeth is two months pregnant. A teacher also, and as ambivalent to commitment as Henry is, Elizabeth knows only that she wants the baby. Little disasters whirl into larger chaos when, after agreeing to marriage, Elizabeth rejects Henry utterly. Henry becomes a "stalker"; an offhanded lie told to protect Nicole gets her assaulted instead by a cute but psychotic white supremacist; and in almost wooing Elizabeth back, he nearlykillsher. In the end, Henry must confront the roots of the pain he causes those he loves—and maybe even figure out the meaning of his life. A few narrative excesses aside: trenchant, funny, occasionally profound, and always surprising. Author tour

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780151005291
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
07/24/2000
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.24(w) x 9.22(h) x 1.18(d)

What People are saying about this

Frederick Busch
In matters of family, in the arena governed by the heart's exacting requirements, Robert Bausch has unforgettably given us the rules of the game.
Rick Bass
A beautiful and aching novel, alarming in its wisdom and treatment of one of the great terrors, loneliness, and one of the great mercies, forgiveness.
Ann Beattie
His characters are so real, you want to reach out and touch them. ...The novel is exciting and exacting. Riveting, too. This one is a winner.

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