Mr. Was

Mr. Was

4.4 31
by Pete Hautman

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Jack Lund figures a good day is when his dad's too drunk to beat up his mom.

For Jack, Bogg's End is the end. The end of the turbulent, see-saw years of watching his father go on the wagon and fall right back off gain. Once it took two years, but the inevitable inevitably happened. Now it's just Jack and his mom starting over in


Jack Lund figures a good day is when his dad's too drunk to beat up his mom.

For Jack, Bogg's End is the end. The end of the turbulent, see-saw years of watching his father go on the wagon and fall right back off gain. Once it took two years, but the inevitable inevitably happened. Now it's just Jack and his mom starting over in the strange old house his grandfather left them.

But the ride's not over yet. Jack's father returns, full of apologies and promises, and for a little while, things are looking up. Then in one terrifying, sickening moment, everything comes crashing back down again.

So Jack runs. He runs through a strange hidden door that takes him back in time to before his parents were born. Before he was born. Maybe with a second chance he can stop the inevitable. At least he's got to try. What Jack doesn't understand, though, is that he can't change his future until he faces his past.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ingenious plotting and startling action combine to make this time-travel thriller a riveting read. Trying to escape from his violent father, Jack and his mother move into his late grandfather's mysterious house in Memory, Minn. There, the 13-year-old discovers a door that can hurtle him 50 years into the past. In the present day, Jack's father is rampaging: he calls the boy's mother a "hardheaded bitch," breaks her fingers and eventually kills her with a baseball bat. Jack escapes through the time-travel door, planning to wait 50 years and prevent the crime. Unbeknownst to him, he is becoming entangled in his own family's ugly history: past and future are irremediably entangled. Jack's strange destiny takes him from the bloody battles of WW II Guadalcanal to a government-run mental institution, where he suffers amnesia and a drug-induced type of catatonia. The only real flaw in this feverish page-turner is the pedestrian heaviness of the dialogue. Hautman, the author of three adult novels, can otherwise be commended: his structure is sophisticated without ever overwhelming the reader, and mined with surprises that explode like fireworks. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
Chapters in this perplexing science fiction work are presented as coming from four various notebooks. John Lund, a child of an abusing, alcoholic father and a timid mother, travels far and wide to escape his life. After dreaming of a hidden door in his grandfather's dilapidated home, he locates it and is transported several times to different time periods in both the lives of the strange house and that of his grandfather. Readers will be riveted to both this science fiction adventure and this story of a child coming to terms with reality.
Children's Literature - Tim Whitney
After Jack witnesses his mother's brutal murder by his alcoholic father, he travels through a mysterious door in his grandfather's home and ends up in an earlier time. He decides to grow up there, so that in 55 years he can prevent his mother's death, but a jealous friend and World War II stand in his way. The story is told very effectively by a series of four notebooks found in 1952 by Jack's father. Suspense and mystery will keep the reader glued to this book until the end, when all of the pieces of the puzzle eventually come together. Fans of science fiction and the theme of time travel will love this book.
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10In this convoluted time-travel story from an adult novelist, a teenager walks through a (more or less) 50-year "door" in an old house, and falls in love with his own grandmother. After his alcoholic father murders his mother and then goes out in the yard to hang himself, Jack Lund travels back to 1941, where he befriends Scud, an enterprising young hustler, and his fiancee, Andie. Jack and Andie warm to each other. By the time Scud finds out, he and Jack are in the Marines on Guadalcanal; after a savage fight Scud leaves Jack for dead, goes off to marry Andie, has a daughter (Jack's mother), and makes a fortune with the help of a 1996 stock-market page young Jack has by chance brought with him. Alive but disfigured and totally amnesiac, Jack (a.k.a. Mr. Was) spends the next 50 years as a mental patient, beginning to recover only after some illicit acupuncture. He escapes, and travels to his old housenot in time to save his mother, but in time to help his father along with his suicide. Enter Pinky Boggs, apparently a time cop of some sort, who haphazardly destroys evidence of the door's existence and tells Jack that a much older Andie is waiting for him in 1946. Jack goes through the door one last timeand there she is. Hautman devotes less effort to explanations or tying up loose ends than to detailed descriptions of violence, stretching out his account of Jack's parents' deteriorating relationship and throwing in bloody visions when the action lags. Jack is more a vehicle (the story is framed as a series of journals and letters) than a character, showing wear but little growth or change. For a lighter, more logically consistent time-loop story, steer readers to Robert Heinlein's oldie-but-still-goodie, The Door into Summer (Del Rey, 1986).John Peters, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Hautman (for adults, The Mortal Nuts, p. 622, etc.) combines the elements of mystery, science fiction, and domestic violence in his compelling and unrelentingly grim first novel for teenagers.

When his grandfather Skoro dies, teenage Jack Lund and his mother journey to the old man's mansion in the aptly named town of Memory. Jack discovers a hidden doorway that transports him back fifty years, and he travels back and forth in time easily. Following the murder of his mother at the hands of his alcoholic father, Jack flees permanently into the past, vowing to live through the years leading up to his mother's death and prevent it. But life in the less-technological past proves just as complicated as the present: Jack falls in love with Andie, but rather than form the third corner of a romantic triangle, he enlists in and barely survives WW II. Jack eventually recovers and remembers his quest. Confronting life's tragedies and integrating them is one of the novel's themes, and so Jack's destiny remains regretfully unalterable. He finds some manner of happiness through a complicated leap of temporal mechanics, but it may not hearten younger readers when weighed against the unsentimental portrayal of an alcoholic household and the bloody murder. More sophisticated readers, however, will find the realism refreshing and enjoy solving the conundrum of Jack's life.

From the Publisher
* “Ingenious plotting and startling action combine to make this time-travel thriller a riveting read.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Hard to put down.”—Booklist

Product Details

Simon Pulse
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Pete Hautman is the author of Godless, which won the National Book Award, and many other critically acclaimed books for teens and adults, including Blank Confession, All-In, Rash, No Limit, Invisible, and Mr. Was, which was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Pete lives in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Visit him at

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Mr. Was 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Ash Wiggs More than 1 year ago
I love this book, and it has been a favorite of mine since I was a young teen. I am now twenty two and have read it countless times, and reccomend this book to anyone looking for an odd yet gripping tale that is, well..........unforgettable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel combines the powers of hate, love, science, and mystery into an enigmatic time-travel thriller that is too real to not believe. The forces of destiny and the stregnth of devotion collide to form the most awesome literature compostion known to man.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr. Was is one of the greatest books ive ever read. And its hard to please a 11 year old. So in your mind you should be thinking that you should be reading this book right now.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What is this book about?????????
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with all of the coments but the reason i love this book is because of the adventure it takes me on and....... well just everything about it !!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Daniel Thompson More than 1 year ago
The idea behind book was as clever as the book was enetertaining the narrative could be a bit strange switching from first person to a style symilar to a journal, but overall i would reccomend this book to anyone ad everyone. Great read
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book! Its so twisty but yet it all makes sense. I have read it almost 5 times! This is my Favorite book of all time. Pete Hautman is an amazing writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book blew me away. All the classic books I can think of have owed their quality largely to a story that is described so effectively and intriguingly that it feels like you're reading not a description of a story, or a place, or a person, but an emotion; they make you feel the place and the mood in your heart. (Good examples: To Kill a Mockingbird and The Lord of the Flies). It's interesting, because both of the books I mentioned were the first by their respective authors (I think, don't quote me on that :) ). These authors had a story in their heart, and told it as such, probably after sifting it through the backs of their minds for quite a long time. I have a good feeling that this book is another example of the same; that this story has been long in the making before finally being told. I felt a lot of this in this book; I could really imagine the places, and most amazingly, the mood, of the story, and felt it. It's an amazing thing to experience, and somehow, this book had it too. The rest of the story was imperfect, and plot holes were abound, but the story was crafted in such a way that I really couldn't care less. For some reason, what easily could have been just another gimmicky story for a formulaic teenaged drama book turned out to be one of the most amazing books i've read in years. The reason why, I think, is because it had the feel of a classic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
totally amazaing thriller, couldnt sleep at night when i read this book, i could not put it down. confusing but awsome. great until the last page!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book reminded me a lot of Robert Cormier's books. I remember I read it when I was younger, and forgot the title. And for about 3 years I kept wondering what the title was! I finally found it and read it again. The character's, setting, and plot, were excellent! It all fit into what type of books I enjoy reading. It's haunting in a way, and I think people look for books that stay in their mind, and make them think about 20 different things. This book was about the first book I actually read that was stranger, and completely different from all the other books I read. I suggestion you carefully read it, and pay attention!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This realistic thriller is outstandingly great!!! I can't wait for hautman's next book. This is the best book I have read so far
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was AWESOME!!!! the second i picked it up i couldn't put it down. i read it in about 7 hours, and I thought it had the coolest storyline.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Pete Hautman is a genious and mastermind!!! His writing is so precise and articulite, you have no trouble reading it at all!!!! This story has all the possible traits you could put in a story-HUMOR,ROMANCE,HORROR,SUSPENCE,and SCIENCE FICTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!