Chris Bachelder’s Abbot Awaits is a very enjoyable journey through the ordinary daily routine of Abbott. Abbott is a university teacher who is spending his summer break at home with his 2-year-old daughter and his wife who is pregnant with their second child. The reader is taken through a slice of Abbott’s life everyday from June 1st through August 31st. Each short chapter in the book represents one day in Abbott’s life. Unremarkable everyday events are chronicled in a manner that makes them seem sometimes dreadfully mundane and sometimes clearly enjoyable for Abbott.
What is Abbott awaiting? The birth of his second child? His return to teaching in the fall? A more spectacular life? I think Abbott is awaiting all of these things, and yet, deep down he is mostly content with his life.
I found myself chuckling often while reading Abbott Awaits. I think anyone involved in a relationship with a spouse/partner will enjoy the subtleties of Abbott’s relationship with his wife. A parent will find enjoyment in Abbott’s relationship with his daughter. This book can be read as slow as a chapter a day or as fast as the entire book in a day. I rarely want to read a book more than once, but I could read this numerous times and find additional nuances each time. This novel is highly recommended. I look forward to reading more from Bachelder.
Disclosure: I received a free e-galley of Abbot Awaits by Chris Bachelder from the publisher, LSU Press.
My rating: 5 stars
A quiet tour de force, Chris Bachelder’s Abbott Awaits transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, startlingly depicting the intense and poignant challenges of a vulnerable, imaginative father as he lives his everyday American existence.
In Abbott we see a modern-day Sisyphus: he is the exhausted father of a lively two-year old, the ruminative husband of a pregnant insomniac, and the confused owner of a terrified dog. Confronted by a flooded basement, a broken refrigerator, a urine-soaked carpet, and a literal snake in the woodpile, Abbott endures the beauty and hopelessness of each moment, often while contemplating evolutionary history, altruism, or the passage of time.
An expectant father and university teacher on summer break, Abbott tackles the agonizing chores of each day, laboring for peace in his household and struggling to keep his daughter clean and happy, all while staving off a fear of failure as a parent, and even as a human being. As he cleans car seats, forgets to apply sun block, clips his dog’s nails, dresses his daughter out of season, and makes unsuccessful furniture-buying trips with his wife, his mind plays out an unrelenting series of paradoxical reflections. Abbott’s pensive self-doubt comes to a head one day in late June as he cleans vomited raspberries out of his daughter’s car seat and realizes: “The following propositions are both true: (A) Abbott would not, given the opportunity, change one significant element of his life, but (B) Abbott cannot stand his life.”
Composed of small moments of domestic wonder and terror, Abbott Awaits is a charming story of misadventure, anxiety, and the everyday battles and triumphs of parenthood.