In Joshua Ferris’ newest novel, To Rise Again At A Decent Hour, we meet a dentist named Paul O’Rourke. Addicted to his cell phone, unapologetically a rampant Red Sox fan and still likely in love with a few of his ex-girlfriends, Paul struggles with everyday life, specifically trying to stay as far away from social media as he can. One day a website pops up online, specifically a site dedicated to Paul’s dentistry practice. Paul avows that he does not want a website and blames it on his unsuspecting employees. Soon a Facebook and Twitter account also appear, but with anti-semitic remarks in tow. Those closest to him aren’t immediately convinced that the remarks aren’t written by Paul, given that he is a stern Atheist. However after more and more scripture belonging to a little known and almost extinct race of peoples starts to appear, Paul begins to question his faith and origins. Should he believe in nothing and cast God aside as non-existent as he always had? Why is this purported Paul O’Rourke online trying make him into something he clearly is not?
To Rise Again At A Decent Hour might be one of the most important novels of the year, if not in recent history. Ferris writes a first person narrative for Paul, consisting a good bit of his internal dialogue that is both hilarious and thoughtful. Not only is Ferris good at saying things to make the reader laugh, a good portion of the content that fills the story is thought provoking. Paul is a professionally successful dentist that struggles with his personal life, but why? He has his rituals of watching the Red Sox, eating takeout and cruising BoSox forums after the game, but is that what he wants for his life? Paul does a supreme job resisting the change and difference that is thrown at him in the novel, only to come to genuine acceptance that maybe sometimes you should just send that tweet, pet the dog and live your life. He soon realizes that he spends too much of his time hating certain things for their principles, wasting that time that he could be devoting to doing those things that might make his own life more enjoyable.
Ferris’ newest work is an ambitious novel because it presses the issue of how important social media is to modern society. Is it really a good thing how connected everyone seems to be these days? Tweeting and snapchatting and instagramming? Even though Paul uses his cellphone on a pretty regular basis, he takes no part in this world. Later in the novel, when faith is more involved than previously, Ferris questions faith. Is God really that important in being faithful? Why can someone not be part of a religious group, participate in religious activities, but not believe in God? Does religion not have to do also with community, in addition to the belief in a deity? It becomes apparent that the main theme of the novel is not of the stolen identity of our main character, but of his loss of self and found identity through the trials and tribulations of his unwillingness to experiment with social media and religions.
Readers of Ferris’ previous books are probably going to go into this new novel knowing all isn’t as it appears to be according to the plot summary. To Rise Again At A Decent Hour starts off as a simple identity theft story, which is a rather popular topic these days, but then morphs into a journey of self discovery for a man that really had no idea who he was. Paul O’Rourke seemed to be just stuck in his current life, convinced of his ways by his own self. He rediscovers a number of things, among them whether or not faith should be part of his life, why it didn’t work out with his ex-girlfriends and most importantly why he truly hates the Yankees.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10 – Even though Ferris starts with a story about identity theft, To Rise Again At A Decent Hour turns into a story about a man finally finding his identity. It’s a hilarious record of a troubled man that thought he had everything figured out, only to have his life turned upside down for the better.