“Some Hell” by Patrick Nathan— A Haunting Coming of Age Story

Nathan, Patrick. “Some Hell”, Graywolf Press, 2018.

A Haunting Coming of Age Story

Amos Lassen

We have had many coming of age and coming out stories and I have often wondered if it is possible to get a new story that is totally different from the many we have read. “Some Hell” answers that question and introduces us to multidimensional characters that are obviously important to writer Nathan.

Colin is a middle school student who has not been doing very well at school and he has problems at home with his siblings. His sister who is a teen teases him, his autistic brother yells at him and Colin is fixated on his best friend. But then nothing is important because Colin’s father takes his own life. His mother, Diane, is broken and needing solace and Colin, himself, is filled with guilt and looks for someone he can talk seriously with. He needs understanding and realizes that neither his grandfather or science teacher can give him what he wants and needs to know. He finds his father’s notebooks that are filled with strange writing and Colin looks for answers there. What he finds weighs on how he sees the world. His mother has a miserable fling with a coworker and as a result she leans on him for support making his burden become that much heavier. With the coming of spring, they decide to take a road trip and get some idea of what the future holds. There is a lot of emotion and pain in this novel as we see how unspeakable tragedy shapes a life, and how our imaginations save us from ourselves.

Just looking at the topics covered here—suicide, homosexuality, parenting, friendship, and psychology lets us know that this is a very serious book. In fact, most of will forget who we are while reading and seeing the world through Colin’s eyes and accepting it through his viewpoint. Colin is haunted both by sex and suicide and we see different kinds of trauma. This is a book about becoming and it punches us hard. The pros is lyrical, the quest is real and the characters are wonderfully drawn. Writer Patrick’s “hell” of the title is the hell we all inhabit and it’s the hell that we make for others.

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