This is my first novel, a bittersweet Gen-X romance about hipsters in Williamsburg, Brooklyn trying to find their identities. It was originally conceived as an update of JK Huysmans' "Against Nature," the 19th Century classic of French Decadence, but with a modern slacker take. I describe it as about "the horror of sobriety," since that is another one of the trials the protagonist is going through, but those looking for a sensationalistic memoir-style recovery story will likely be disappointed. I try to show that alcoholism is primarily a "disease of feelings," and have my character going through the full range of emotional distress the newly-sober usually find themselves in. ***NOTE: there are a few fairly graphic sexual scenes, so if you are offended by such language or adult situations, think twice before getting this book.****
"Half Empty" doesn't deal with the stereotypical "struggle" of sobriety, such as fighting the urge to relapse. Instead, there's a far more common "struggle" with our protagonist's sobriety: facing reality and figuring out what to do with your life. I've never abused substances, but I have to say I related really well to Dennis. I'm part-way through college after dealing with anxiety attacks for several years now. Just like Dennis, I ask myself, "Now what am I going to do?" While there isn't a huge, perfect resolution at the end of this novel, I have to say that I still felt the right sense of closure and fulfillment when I finished the last page. There are some books whose endings make no sense, others who leave you hanging, and some that just feel right; this is that last example, even though the story is fairly open-ended.
I read a preview on Amazon.com, and I have to say that Tim Hall's style of writing had me hooked. It's sort of a perfect third-person journal entry feeling. There are the vividly described details, the right bits of transition, and the all-too-true-to-life dialogue, even just the internal dialogue. I loved reading Dennis's trains of thought, even when he couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by his memories of the past. The chapter-lengths are great for short bursts of reading, if that's your kind of thing, but they are also the kind that makes you want to say, "Oh just one more chapter!"
The book's description here and on the back cover don't really explain the plot, which I think is perfectly fine. With this novel, you need just a tiny bit of the backstory (which is provided), and you're all set to live the events with the characters as they unfold. Just like in our everyday lives, we don't know what's going to happen next, and sometims things don't always go according to plan. We also don't know what happens after the end of the novel, but that's fine. Tim Hall's "Half Empty" is less of a story and more of an excerpt, just another part of the life of Dennis.
Bonus points: My copy that I got from Paperback Swap is signed by the author. I got really lucky getting this copy and even more lucky that I stumbled across this tale.