- 03 Aug 22
There's No Escaping The Past
Here's a scenario that's probably played out in many people's heads: what would you do if you ran into someone who gave you a hard time back in your youth? Would you, as you might tell yourself late at night, show them what's what in no uncertain terms or, as is probably more likely, end up making allowances and then hating yourself even more because that's the way most people are wired up?
Repression is, as any head doctor will likely confirm, bad for you and Habib's ominous yet at times deeply poetic literary thriller hammers that point home. Having given academia, pornography, Joyce and podcasting - Against Everyone - a bash, this is Habib's debut novel and, with respect to his other efforts, he may have found his calling.
Todd is on the beach with his young son, Anthony. It turns out live has been a bit of a struggle for him since his son was born. His mother, Livia, lit out almost straight away, realising too late that this was not the life she wanted, so Todd has moved himself and his son to a new town and taken a teaching job. Anthony is about to start school for the first time, despite the fact he's six, having been kept out of any kind of nursery school by Todd, perhaps because of his own history. He's uneasy as a stranger approaches Anthony but it turns out to be Jack Gates, a figure from his school days.
Of course it isn't a coincidence, no matter what Jack says, who cuckoo eggs himself into the household, although we can see from their first dinner together, where he threatens some local kids, that he is bad news. Jack's presence brings up a lot of buried subconscious murk for Todd. In a series of flashbacks we read how Jack and his cronies bullied Todd as a young man, and their homophobic taunts left him alienated from his senior high school class. There was a school trip to Hawk Mountain which seems to have particular resonance. Jack is vague about why he's there at all, offering scant information about the state of his own marriage. The question the reader is practically shouting at the page is why Todd allows him to stay in his house? Yes, Anthony becomes attached to Uncle Jack but when he refers to him as his son and answers the phone as Todd's boyfriend, why doesn't Todd just issue him his marching papers?
If all this wasn't enough, Livia has returned from her European frolics and now wants the child that she so callously abandoned back in her life. The book turns on its head thanks to a disturbing and, for the most part, unexpected violent act which sends one of the characters spiralling into chaos. There's a lot going on here and Habib skilfully manages to juggle it all, entangling the reader in a gripping narrative, one we can identify more with as each page turns. Is it possible for any of us to escape our past, especially if that past is rife with unresolved issues and emotions? And what do we we do when that past crashes into our present, especially if that present has more than enough of its own problems? Hawk Mountain covers some dark terrain but it is a place that most of us, thought we might deny it, are likely familiar with.
- Lifestyle & Sports
- 03 Aug 22