The second book from the multi-talented actor Ethan Hawke, Ash Wednesday
is a sparsely written "road" novel that explores with some tenderness those perennially thorny issues of modern life: love and commitment. Staff Sergeant Jimmy Heartsock is a typical, if admittedly irresponsible and drug-addled, GI Joe. He's a regular guy, obsessed with his souped-up Cherry Nova car, fond of "drinking and talking about ass, bowling, driving fast and basketball" with his numbnut army buddies. He is however, hopelessly in love with Christy Ann Walker, his beautiful, if slightly mixed-up, and now pregnant girlfriend.
Unable to cope with imminent fatherhood, he breaks up with Christy and embarks on a crystal meth frenzy that culminates in him hideously botching an assignment to inform a woman of her son's death. He resolves to change, get his girl back and grow up (although he begins his odyssey by maturely opting to go AWOL from the Army). Christy has made a few decisions of her own, she's had enough of Jimmy and she's off home to Texas. Luckily Jimmy, armed with Christy's cat Grace, catches up with his love at the New York bus station and getting down on his knees in the middle of an ice-encrusted car park proposes marriage. After a bout of car window-steaming lovemaking, they agree to visit Jimmy's mother in Ohio, tie the knot and start a new life in Texas.
The physical, emotional and spiritual realities of this journey, of course, prove more arduous than either first expects. Along the way the protagonists meet an odd array of well-meaning religious seers--including a sunglass-wearing Muslim drunk, the Heartsock's family priest and a tramp with a Jesus complex--and, more convincingly, are forced to come to terms the scars from their past. Both had troubled home lives--Jimmy's father was a mentally unstable Vietnam vet who committed suicide and Christy never really knew her mother. Hawke sensitively examines the difficulty of planning a family and a future when you still haven't come to turns with your own upbringing. --Travis Elborough
" An engrossing story of men and women, parents and children, love and loneliness" -- She, September 2002
"He tells a warm, engaging and often very funny tale" -- Independent on Sunday, 20th October 2002
"If you liked 'The Hottest State', then 'Ash Wednesday' is a must read" -- Latest Homes, 4th September 2002
"The actor swaps script for manuscript well, result being a novel not without sentiment, but very low on mawkishness." -- I-D Magazine September 2002
"This kid can write" -- The Guardian, 19th October 2002
"it is a marvellous novel" -- Daily Telegraph, 22nd September 2002
"read tot he end, you wont be disappointed" -- Glamour, September 2002