Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rocket Man by William Elliott Hazelgrove


Title: Rocket Man
Author: William Elliott Hazelgrove
Publisher: Pantonne Press
Publication Date: December 1, 2008
Format: Paperback, 376 pages
Age Group: Adult

Dale Hammer is a struggling writer who has moved his family to the suburbs in search of the American Dream. Rather than finding suburban bliss, Dale is unable to hold his life together as he faces financial problems, marriage problems, and his failures as a father.

While many reviews of Rocket Man have referred to the book as humorous, I failed to see the humor in Dale Hammer's tremendous failures as a husband and father. (Although to be fair I didn't *get* the humor in The Nanny Diaries or The Devil Wears Prada either.) Dale is not a very likable or sympathetic character because it is clear that many of his problems stem from his own actions and attitude. At the same time, Dale is examining his life and sees his failures yet is unable to change his course - like a train wreck that one sees coming but is unable to prevent.

My favorite character in the book was actually Dale Hammer, Sr. because he is essentially my father in law with a southern accent. Dale Sr. is also a tremendous failure but the difference is that he has a spark of life that the main character is lacking. Despite Dale Sr.'s problems he continues to move forward with a vigorous new plan. He is loud, crude, and demands attention - a true salesman in all areas of his life.

Rocket Man is an engaging look at the illusion that is the American Dream. The book is also incredibly timely with the collapse of the housing market and current economic conditions that have many people struggling to maintain their customary lifestyle in the face of financial difficulties. The events of the book are occasionally interrupted by Dale's contemplations of his current situation. While these scenes allow readers to understand Dale's thoughts and motivations, the inner monologues come across as a bit pretentious - would such an epic failure as Dale really be that aware of his own life?

As a novel in the literary/general fiction category, which is outside of my usual scope of reading, I enjoyed Rocket Man more than I expected I would. One caveat - the book does contain quite a bit of foul language which could turn some people off to the story.

Thank you to William Elliott Hazelgrove and Pantonne Press for sending me an Advance Review Copy of Rocket Man.