Saturday, May 11, 2024

The Second Coming

The Second Coming by Garth Risk Hallberg
5/28/24; 608 pages
Knopf Doubleday

The Second Coming by Garth Risk Hallberg is a recommended family drama that examines the minutiae regarding the broken relationship and lives of a father and his teenage daughter.

In 2011 thirteen-year-old Jolie Aspern drops her phone onto the subway tracks and has a near-miss with a subway train when she jumps down to recover it. The thoughtless act was likely due to her drinking, but she is having other emotional issues. It does bring her estranged father back into her life.  Her father, Ethan Aspern is a recovering addict and convicted felon. He believes he can help her navigate her problems and set her straight so he returns home to NYC.

The narrative negotiates between multiple time periods and perspectives including the present and in flashbacks following Ethan's relationship with Jolie's mother, Sarah Kupferberg, relationships with parents, his addiction and more. There are many, many details and emotional insights into the characters. There are many keen insights into the raw emotions of both father and daughter, who share, in part, a bond over anxiety and addiction.

But the novel itself is just too, too much. Too full of elaborate prose, too meandering, too long, too expansive, too detailed, too emotional, too overworked, too slow paced, and, well, you get my point. From the synopsis, this is seemingly a novel I would normally relish. Instead it felt like I slogged through it, starting and stopping while losing interest in the characters or the plot. Tighten it up, refine the focus, pick up the pacing, and make us care about these characters. Thanks to Knopf for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

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