Harry, Revised / Mark Sarvas

Harry Rent is a radiologist nearing mid-life, and his world has just been turned upside down with the unexpected death of his wife. However, his reaction is not a typical one for a grieving widower. On the way to his wife’s funeral, Harry first stops at a cafe where he finds himself attracted to Molly, a waitress who works there. Even though he loved his wife, her death leaves him wondering why he feels lost and cut adrift rather than distraught.

For all of his life Harry has been absent-minded, a bumbler who often does the wrong thing despite the best of intentions. He also fears that his much richer wife has always been embarrassed of him (based on a comment he once overheard her make to her parents). With her death, he begins to read The Count Of Monte Cristo and decides to follow the example of the book’s protagonist, Edmond Dantés. Rather than remain timid and misguided, he will change to become decisive, a force to be reckoned with. This entangles him in a web of lies, as he attempts to win the attention and affection of Molly by being someone other than his true self.

In the second half of the book Harry is forced by events to be honest not only with Molly, but with himself. This allows him to finally confront memories from his married life and admit past mistakes. In doing so, he also finds the tears to grieve the loss of his wife. Harry is an overgrown boy who finally matures to become a decent human being.

Harry reminded me of the Elwin Cross character in Want Not (see my previous review). Both men are good hearted and well-intentioned; it is just that life keeps going wrong all around them. Mark Sarvas, like Jonathan Miles (the author of Want Not), knows how to create compelling characters. Both write prose that is accessible, funny, and rich with human pathos. Harry Rent might not seem likable at first glance, but by the novel’s end he has earned the reader’s respect. Harry, Revised is a heartwarming story, with a flawed main character who redeems himself when he gives up trying to impress.

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