The eponymous narrator of The Redemption of George Baxter Henry may be the least noble of protagonists you’re bound to meet on the printed page this summer, but he’s also quite likely among the most colorful. In the words of Henry’s incessantly griping mother-in-law, “Family? What would you know about family? Your son is a cocaine addict, your daughter hardly knows you, and your wife wants a divorce. Family? Don’t make me laugh.”
Yet in his own way–and for his own reasons–Henry wants more than anything to keep his family together, so he books a trip to the South of France where his son can dry out, his daughter can get to know him, and his wife can fall in love again — that is, if Henry can manage to keep it all together, no mean feat given his proclivity for extramarital affairs.
Fans of Connor Bowman’s previous novel, The Last Estate, will be delighted to see the author returning to the South of France for his latest literary outing. Indeed, The Redemption of George Baxter Henry works in an odd way as a kind of sequel to The Last Estate, or at least a literary cousin; as with Bowman’s earlier novel, geography and local color become characters in their own right as the story unfolds.
Yet Bowman’s greatest talent is likely his penchant for making readers care about characters who are, for the most part, unlikable. While George Baxter Henry may well be a lout, he’s a lout with a lot at stake, and as the title of this novel suggests, his concerns aren’t merely financial. Arguably, it’s Henry’s soul that’s up for grabs in this tale. As such, his journey toward redemption is one that many (if not most) readers will find familiar at least in some way.
Like Henry, we’re all flawed in some way, and we’ve all been in need of redemption at one time or another. In this sense, Bowman has created something of a literary everyman — a character whose sins are so sweeping and egregious that he eclipses us all. As such, his redemption is our redemption. To put it another way, if Bowman’s protagonist can be saved, then there’s hope for the rest of us!