4 out of 4 stars
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In The Obsession of Henry Enright by J.I. Lorden, the protagonist struggles with depression after a tragedy occurs during his teenage years in the 1950s. Although Henry isn't involved when his five friends die in an accident, he experiences a type of survivor's guilt. He becomes obsessed with his rebellious teenage actions and is haunted by a past relationship. Despite attending Catholic school and being brought up by a religious mother, he is confused and doubts God. Now married with children, Henry's inability to let go of the past affects his marriage and relationships with his family members.
Although the professionally-edited book is a work of fiction, the first-person narrative reads like a memoir. Chapters alternate between Henry's youth, teen, and adult years. The book traverses themes of religious guilt, promiscuity, antisemitism, despair, regret, faith, forgiveness, spirituality, and reconciliation.
The author adeptly conveys the melancholy perspective of the protagonist: "Hiding your sadness is about the hardest thing a person can do. I tried to fix things in my mind, but it only got worse." Henry's flaws and frustration with himself are relatable. As the story progresses, the interaction between different characters reveals how Henry's depression affects those closest to him. For example, Henry longs for a close relationship with his father but often feels misunderstood. However, when Henry decides to act against medical advice, his father voices support on his behalf to the doctor.
While portions of this character-driven plot focus heavily on Henry's depression, unexpected turns balance the story and keep it engaging. Without exposing plot spoilers, I'll say that in a few instances, I didn't see certain events coming, and I especially like how these parts of the plot lead to an uplifting conclusion.
However, I disliked the confusing abundance of "B" names included in the story. Among Henry's friends and acquaintances were Bernie, Butchy, and Buddy; the names of two doctors mentioned were Barclay and Bartlett. Different name choices would have provided more clarity to the story, but it was a minor distraction given the quality of the rest of the book.
For its engaging plot, unexpected elements, and uplifting ending, I rate the book 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend this work of fiction to readers who enjoy nostalgic memoirs. It will also appeal to those interested in characters coping with depression. Readers should be warned that the book contains R-rated profanity and non-explicit sexual references.
The Obsession of Henry Enright
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