Book Review: My Name on a Grain of Rice
Reviewed by Audrey Davis
A brisk and well-written novel dealing in reality and relationships
My Name on a Grain of Rice, a literary novel by Richard Voigt, follows Harry Travers on his confrontation of self-discovery.
Harry, feeling detached from the country-club chasing lifestyle that his well-off yet preoccupied parents have tried to create for him, quits his job with a software company to follow his coworker Sterling into a vastly different field: Pile driving. Neither have any experience with this dangerous endeavor, yet they long to be able to see concrete results of their own handiwork. Harry struggles with the uncertainty of adult life, as he realizes his goals have only been those his parents have laid out for him, and sets out to defy expectations and create an identity for himself.
While forming relationships with new coworkers and their families, both positive and negative, he becomes involved with Minnie Sollis, a driven and direct woman who encourages Harry to stand up for himself, and through his vulnerability, he realizes his own capacity for love.
Harry realizes he has to get out of his own way to be able to make life happen for himself the way he wants it. He hesitantly begins his new job with absolutely no experience and seeks out Minnie after seeing her across a bar. He watches Sterling bring home a woman from the same bar who illustrates her ability to make something of her life despite her hardships. This prompts Harry to examine his choices thus far and his future choices even further. Harry finds the passion and intensity needed to keep him, his crew, and his relationship going, but tragedy strikes, and on top of searching for his identity, Harry is charged with the hefty task of moving on and handling loss.
The novel focuses mainly on Harry’s introspection and realizations, yet the reader is able to grasp Harry’s growing sense of reality as well—these are all people, humans, with families and lives just like his. Harry is prompted to consider what he wants from life, where he might like to end up, and what he wants to accomplish over time.
There’s a captivating sense of reality in Harry’s as-yet unfulfilled but positive outlook on the future. Harry feels that even if he isn’t sure where he wants to end up eventually, he can be proud of things happening currently, of work that he puts in with his own hands, of garnered relationships.
The reader gets to see Harry become more confident, see him become a person of his own making and achieve essentially the only goal he had in mind from the start—defy expectations and break free from the life “already lived for [him].”
Voigt thrives in crafting this honest and composed coming-of-age novel. It’s a reminder that “put[ting] your name on a grain of rice” instead of up in flashing lights isn’t always a bad thing; sometimes it’s enough to know you exist, and simply be content with existing for another day.
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
Print Length: 304 pages
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