Thirty-eight year old Walt Honerman is drifting through life in Billings, Montana. Still reeling from the death of his girlfriend decades earlier, Walt exists in this small town for Friday night movies with his uncle and the rest of the seniors at the local nursing home. His placid life ends when his uncle dies and Walt is bound by the promise he made, to drive cross-country for a baseball game. Joining him on the journey are Moira Kelly, a young woman who befriended Walt’s uncle, and 76-year-old Izzy Dunleavy who wishes to return to his hometown of Crawfish Bay.
On the journey east Izzy entertains his companions with tales of the grand resort he ran in Crawfish Bay but the veracity of his stories are quickly called into question when Izzy is arrested on embezzlement charges shortly after their arrival. Moira insists on remaining by Izzy’s side to prove his innocence and Walt reluctantly stays as well, increasingly being drawn into Moira’s elaborate schemes.
Contagion, the lastest novel from law professor Patrick M. Garry, follows the template of the hero’s journey (or monomyth); a hero ventures forth from the every day into world where the hero must face tasks and trials, either alone or with assistance. Like many prototypical heroes, Walt initially refuses the call to adventure (traveling east) but is soon overwhelmed with pressure by his uncle’s friends and ventures forth into the unknown joined by Izzy and Moira. By refusing the call, Walt moves from hero to a victim in need of rescue and cedes the journey’s direction to Izzy. The arrest of Izzy, and the resulting mess which must be untangled, is Walt’s road of trials and Izzy becomes the father-figure with whom Walt must reconcile.
While the first half of the novel where Garry sets the stage for Walt’s journey is slow and occasionally begins to drag, the second half quickly kicks into high gear driven by Moira’s determination and Jake’s personality (a young man Walt and Moria meet at Crawfish Bay) which carry readers along in their wake.
In many ways, all of the main characters in Contagion are on journeys, each trying to find their way to a home. Walt must overcome his fears, guilt and start living again and Izzy has to cease living in a dream and accept responsibility for his history. Neither has much connection to reality and their detachment makes it difficult for readers to connect with their characters; however, the strong secondary characters provide enough depth to keep readers turning pages.
Publisher: Inkwater Press
Publication Date: May 2007
tags: books fiction hero's journey Patrick M. Garry