Being Henry David by Cal Armistead0
Seventeen-year-old "Hank" has found himself at Penn Station in New York City with no memory of anything --who he is, where he came from, why he's running away. His only possession is a worn copy of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. And so he becomes Henry David-or "Hank" and takes first to the streets, and then to the only destination he can think of--Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. Cal Armistead's remarkable debut novel is about a teen in search of himself. Hank begins to piece together recollections from his past. The only way Hank can discover his present is to face up to the realities of his grievous memories. He must come to terms with the tragedy of his past, to stop running, and to find his way home.
I never thought that I would get the chance to review this book but when I got it on NetGalley, I did a little happy dance on my side of the screen. The whole plot of the story caught my attention right away and I knew that I had to read this book one way or another. Now that I have read this book, I am happy to say that I should just trust my instincts. This book was great and I adore it. The beautiful characters brought to life an incredible plot. I am so excited to finally get the chance to review a book I've been wanting to read for awhile.
Being Henry David by Cal Armistead is similar to a different story I read awhile ago in the sense that the main character lost their memory but everything else is completely different. I think the fact that it reminded me of another story I loved is the reason I first picked it up. The story begins in Penn Station with a boy who can't seem to remember who he is and the only things he understands are common knowledge like he was in the US or was speaking English. But there was something blocking out his memory and everything about his life is just beyond his reach. As he searches for who he is, he finds himself drawn into the wrong side of New York City and his only solace is the book he found by his side when he awoke; Walden by Henry David Thoreau. A chance escape leads him to where the story took place and maybe to the key to unlocking his past. But life isn't that simple and that is why this boy is about to find out.
Henry David aka "Hank" is the name that our main character assumes after he wakes to find his identity forgotten. I admire his strength in the face of a strange city and a lost memory. If I were to awake in Penn Station like he did, I probably would've broken down in tears and been inconsolable when it came to the bleak future facing me. Yet Hank is determined to remember as well as live. He deals with each situation he faces with a ironic sense of humor and a glimmer of hope simmering just beneath the surface. He wants to remember his past, he wants to enjoy his future, and he wants to live his life. He wants to be happy. As he continues to search for himself, he finds himself falling for a girl who he can't even tell his real name because he can't even remember it. His new life in Concord is filled with lies and half truths but he discovers that he can find people to trust even in the darkest of places. I think before he lost his memory, he was a typical teenage guy and after he lost his memory, I think he became an extraordinary guy. I find him swoon worthy for the simple fact that he owns his mistakes and has strength to stand on his own.
Jack and Nessa are the first two people that Hank really connects with in New York City. I like that he was able to find friends in even the darkest of hours in his life because even I'll admit that I wouldn't be feeling too social after that. Jack met him in the bathroom at Penn Station and a comradeship seemed to be struck between the two of them. In someways, I think that Hank was too trusting with him. But at the same time, I would think that he would need someone to help him survive in a strange city too. Nessa is introduced through Jack to him and she is described as being beautiful, even underneath all the filth. There is a small connection between both Hank and her but she isn't the love interest in this story. She is a sweet girl, caught up in her brother's life, and struggling to survive in a world where she has no stability.
Now, Hailey is the love interest of this story. She isn't the typical type of beautiful based on how Hank describes her but I believe that is why he found her attractive in the first place. I find her character to be extremely real for me and she reminds me a lot of my best friend actually. Daring but shy, confident yet self-consious. Not to mention the fact that they share a similar health disability. When I read about her, all I wanted was for her to find happiness and love but I wanted her to find it with Hank. In my mind, I think she did. She and Hank deserve to have happiness, whether they are together or apart.
I was shaky about whether or not I liked his family. I guess the same thing could be said for Hank as he continued to try to remember who they even were. In some ways I had hoped that his family wasn't alive anymore and that he was on the run from some horrible place. But most of the time, I wanted him to have a happy family and hope that maybe something horrible just happened on accident. But you'll have to see whether I was right on the first or second account and you'll just have to know that I am completely content with the outcome of his family. I hope you will be too. There is one person who is basically family to Hank during his memory loss and that is Thomas, the man he meets at Walden Pond when he first arrives at Concord. This man is everything that Hank needs in a mentor and he is his greatest support in every choice he makes. I think that if he hadn't met Thomas, his story would've turned out a lot differently than it did.