Friday, June 3, 2016

The Passage

The Passage by Michael Hurley
Ragbagger Press: 6/1/16
eBook review copy; 362 pages
ISBN-13: 9780976127581

The Passage by Michael Hurley is a very highly recommended novel of self-discovery.

Jay Danforth Fitzgerald, "Fitz," is a failed stockbroker in his early 60's who has also failed at three marriages. He doesn't believe in love, certainly not lasting love. After his third and last divorce, he moved onto his sailboat. His boat has been in Charleston Harbor for the last three years. Fitz is slowly running out of money, but he still goes to Tiddly's Bar every evening for dinner and a beer. When a young, 34 year old woman, Gemma, sits next to him at the bar and starts a conversation, his life changes. He decides to attempt to sail to Ireland (or die trying), but when Gemma secretly stows aboard, his plans change.

I'm going to be honest and tell you that I did not like The Passage in the beginning. I was not in the mood for Fitz's self-loathing pity party. I was not prepared to accept that a young 34 year old woman was intrigued by this guy in his 60's who is soaking wet and dressed like a bum. And when Fitz lies to her and says he's 44, well, I was not too keen on a protagonist who was, by all appearances, going to be a huge jerk, lie, and hit on a young woman. Nope, not too keen on old guys thinking they deserve younger women and not interested in reading any novel along those lines. But that's not quite what happens, and I should have given Hurley more credit based on his previous to novels I read and loved.

Yes, this is a novel about love, failed love, and redemptive love, but it's also a novel about longing for what might have been - and that is what makes it a much stronger novel than my first impression allowed. When the twists happen in the plot and everything falls into place, I was totally enamored with the underlying themes and symbolism Hurley tucked into the plot so perfectly and tenderly. I went from strongly disliking The Passage to adoring it, a tough transition to make and certainly a change of opinion that is rarely traversed.

Hurley is an exceptional writer and that helped me stick with The Passage until I reached the transformative part. As I have said before, Hurley writes with a depth, intelligence, and thoughtfulness that make you crave more - and made me want to keep reading. The settings are clearly described. Obviously, Hurley knows his way around a sailboat and can describe it. The characters are also clearly well developed and there is personal growth and change in the end.

Disclosure: I received a digital advanced reading copy of this book from the author for review purposes.

1 comment:

Winifred's Well said...

Yes, I too was tired of the self-pity. His beautiful writing kept me with the character in spite of his tiresome introspections.

Loving female-male encounters, sailing, and nature adventures, I stayed with this passage.

As you say, the voyage into unexpected waters was intense in a way not found very often in current literary efforts. I found it deeply moving.