Being Harish Karumuri
When I first picked up Being Henry David by Cal Armistead through my club, Battle of the Books, I groaned. I was tired of these books about some guy who I don’t even know having amnesia who is trying to find out who he was. I mean, really? This is not a bad concept, but it is so overdone that the genre is no longer interesting. But then I started reading the first page. And the second. And the third. Before I knew it, I was reading the last page of the book, staying up until 2 o’clock in the morning to finish it.
The book is very well written, using a sense of living life to its fullest, feeling loss, and joy of a person trying to find out who he really is. This also has a scenario of what to do when life is controlling you, not the other way around.
The main character, who goes by many different names, but mainly as a character named “Hank”, wakes up at Penn Station without knowing who he is. The first person he sees is a psychopath named “Frankie,” a guy who will eat anything from ID cards to wallets and pages of books. The only items Hank has are a 10 dollar bill and a book called, “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, an abolitionist with many careers such as an author and a poet. Thoreau has a major effect on the book by giving Hank a pathway through the story, giving him a person to connect and feel to, especially when no one was with him. This book personifies a quote by Thoreau; “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”
A good component of the story is the adventure. Hank has no idea about who he is or where he is from, but tries to figure out when life starts to stress him out, especially when he accidentally kills someone. Led by the book in his hands, he goes to Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts in order to see if he can remember who he is.
The upbeat part of the story is when Hank meets a person named Jack, who gives him shelter, food, and a job at the library. He then befriends many people, and even gets a girlfriend. Life seems to be simple, and most of all, he seems to be happy. However, he still goes searching for who he is and wants to figure out how he got to the place he was at now. Throughout the book, there seems to be a struggle between himself and a “beast” that seems to guard his memory and prevent him from remembering his past. However, once he finally gets information about himself, he freaks out trying to figure out what he should do next.
The end was very beautiful, as he begins to see everything come through. In spite of the hardships to leaving this new life, he decides to go back to who he really was and live his old life. That “struggle” is what makes the entire story very well written and enjoyable to read. This was one of those moments where I wished I could cry. It was just that moving.
As I mentioned before, the story gives a meaning behind “build your life”. You have control of your life; your life does not control you.
I feel that a story is made through emotions, actions, and interactions. The emotions are what the person is thinking behind his actions, and those actions lead into interactions with other people, other objects, and themselves. Cal Armstead has used those components very well making the book have an uplifting feeling inside of you after seeing or witnessing something emotional and inspiring.
I clearly remember the feeling that I got after I finished reading the book. I was struggling to go to sleep as the thoughts I had about the book were swirling through my head. I was and am truly glad about joining the club and deciding to give the book a shot.
As Thoreau said in Walden, “However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man's abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.” This quote is the meaning behind this story and for that reason, and the reasons before, I highly recommend anyone and everyone to read this book.