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By any objective measure, Stewart has achieved the American Dream. He is well educated, has a good job, a wife and a house in the suburbs. Yet he is bBy any objective measure, Stewart has achieved the American Dream. He is well educated, has a good job, a wife and a house in the suburbs. Yet he is beset and plagued by insecurities and neurosis that compel him to throw it all away. Thus setting the stage for one of the most unique depictions of a mid-life crisis that I have ever encountered. For you see instead of a convertible and a young mistress the vehicle of choice for Stewart is to leave it all behind and live his life as a hobo. Yet oddly enough, it is also a sort of a middle-age coming-of-age tale. Only by throwing it all away can Stewart ultimately discover his true self.
“Every Command but the Fifth” is a well written and very unique book. I say unique because it is not easily categorized. The author describes it as a physiological thriller and I suppose that is as good a description as any. However, do not expect thrills and chills as you work through the pages. This book is more of a slow burn.
This book excels in two areas characters and descriptive narrative. The characters are well-written and memorable. All the major characters are transients and members of a small tent city. Yet each is a well realized entity; some very sympathetic, other less so and still others loathsome. Yet interestingly enough they are not depicted as victims. While negative life events may have played a role most seemed to have chosen to trade-in a traditional life for one on the fringes of society; not that the author romanticizes this lifestyle (although there are some passages that do).
This is also a very well-written book with a vividly descriptive narrative. One scene in particular that stood out for me was of a much anticipated spaghetti dinner. Ward’s depiction of the ultimately spoiled meal is heartbreaking in the skill with which it is written. There are other such scenes in the book as well. In addition, there are any number of “Easter eggs” with regard to life in Northern New Jersey (where the book exclusively takes places) for the reader to ferret out.
My lone quibble with the book is that I felt that the climax feels a bit rushed and a bit out of nowhere. I think a more deliberate approach would have led to a more satisfying conclusion. That is only minor issue and did not affect my enjoyment of the book in the least. Where the end of the book excels is in foregoing a more clichéd ending for one that honors the characters and the journey they took together.
As I said this book is not easily categorized. For me I viewed it as a pallet cleanser. If you read as much as I do, you occasionally need to read something completely unique and different. If you are in need of such a literary break I highly recommend “Every Commandment but the Fifth” which I give a 4.5 out of 5. ...more