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Harold Hardscrabble by G.D. Dess

four stars

dessG.D. Dess’ novel, Harold Hardscrabble, is a story about the life of an average man. Harold is nothing very remarkable nor anything overly bland; he is a just a man who lives his life in the same way that many other men live their lives. In college Harold meets Carol, the woman who will later become his wife and the mother of his children, and, after a time, they fall into some variation of love. After graduate school, they live in a modest apartment in New York City and work jobs that allow them more and more material possessions and upward mobility. While Harold had always imagined himself working and being connected to the arts, he settles relatively comfortably into the corporate job that allows him to occasionally put his feet up, admire the Chrysler building, and drift into a daydream. It is amazing the speed at which the years pass Harold by. One day Harold is a young man, wondering what the future will hold. The next day, Harold is an older man, remembering his youth and the paths that brought him to his current life. But who can really know what the future holds? Sometimes it is just when everything feels the most comfortable that something clicks, like the trigger of a gun, and sends everything spinning in a completely different direction. Sometimes what one thinks is love and a true life purpose just isn’t, and existential exhaustion causes shit to hit the fan with unimaginable force.

Harold Hardscrabble is a thoughtful and well-written observation of the human condition. As G.D. Dess so succinctly describes, “He felt fine when he wasn’t thinking about his life.” Dess paints Harold and his struggles to be very relatable and Harold’s life seems real, though maybe slightly more well-researched and foot-noted than the average life. Many of Harold’s feelings and predicaments are those of the average man. Dess addresses everything from breast implants, to online dating, to finding purpose in a job. Dess pushes members of the modern world to question many things and consider that maybe even something unlikely could come to be true.