From the Vault: Book Review – Ablutions by Patrick deWitt
Ablutions by Patrick deWitt was published in 2010 and is deWitt’s first novel. We chose this From the Vault pick because it’s the perfect book to review at the start of a New Year. Somewhat ironically, the book is filled with characters and situations one would resolve against when picking Resolutions, as this book is as much about addiction and self-loathing as it is a study on effective literary writing. The first thing you notice about Ablutions is the point of view. It’s told in second person, which would send many readers running for the hills, but because deWitt executes flawlessly, the construction only enhances the reader’s sense of a narrator who is distanced from a life that is spiraling toward a dark end. The story, which primarily takes place in a bar and focuses on the down-and-out regulars, could very easily border on cliche, except again for deWitt’s deft use of characterization and the strong sense of something building beneath the novel’s gritty surface. The book is simultaneously funny and sad, with a productive ebb and flow that draws you in and spits you out. I would label this a “guy book” because of the overall tone and the predominantly male characters, but readers who enjoy dark novels with flawed characters, drugs, alcohol, and a depressing facade will appreciate much in this small book. Again, somewhat ironically, and much to deWitt’s credit, everything you likes in this book is the very thing you dislike. Because it’s a quick read, and because it delivers in full force, we’re honoring this debut novel as our first review of the year.