Pepper Harding makes a strong debut in the comically insightful fiction: The Heart of Henry Quantum. The novel is quietly powerful in its trailing of Henry Quantum as man with a vast mind but a confused heart. As Henry tries to buy his wife, Margaret, Chanel No. 5 as a Christmas gift on the day of, he is distracted by humorous mishaps and the random, yet emotional incessancy of his own mind. Still, if you think Henry is the only person struggling with mental unclarity, the book follows his wife Margaret and his ex Daisy to show that with age can come confusion.
Most attribute disillusionment and angst to be a young person’s plight, but the beauty of Henry Quantum is that Harding shows we always struggle to feel comfortable in our skin. Each character, Henry. Margaret, and Daisy have chapters dedicated to their inner turmoil over their life’s decisions. Did they choose to marry the right people for them? Did they choose the right career for themselves? Are they really the good people they claim to be? Harding uses quirky wit and hilarious misadventures to help digest the sincere sadness that purveys each character as they combat the overarching theme of this book: What could have been of me?
We all question whether we have done the best for ourselves or have been our own worst enemy. Henry, Margaret, and Daisy are flawed people that wear their faults heavily on their mind despite avidly hiding them to the world around. Publicly they seem kept “together” and wistful of their world,
but Harding assures that readers know, inside, these characters are frustrated. Through them. Harding captures how human beings internally bruise and alleviate their spirits through the power of thought. As the novel progresses the laugh out loud moments transgress into a more insightful analysis on how the process of thought may differ between people, but the source of thoughts may not. In this case, the mental source of Henry Quantum’s disarray is his insecurities.
I loved Henry Quantum. He is a sweet man, with a brilliantly random mind. Moreover, for all his faults and guilts, you feel protective of his heart because you know it does not carry malice. The same goes for Margaret and Daisy, whom are wonderful emblems of a woman’s contemplation over their marriage, family life, and careers. While Henry’s perspective is intriguing through its slight derangement, the book captivates through the heartbreak of these two women whom genuinely feel that they have settled for less in their life. There are moments where both are so broken over their faded love for their husbands and exhausting disappointment in themselves for their career, that readers could cry. Yet, it the compassion each characters strikes within readers that make Harding debut novel a worthy read.
Though Henry, Margaret, and Daisy are three different characters, in carrying their insecurities, you find they are not so distinct from each other. We all can carry a sadness within us, but it how we overcome it and persevere in our day to day that makes us both resilient and funny. I did not realize how much laughter plays a role in picking up the pieces of our lives’ and continuing to build them to be better. Through The Heart of Henry Quantum, December 23 takes a whole new meaning as it is not only a celebration of life but a contemplation of it, as well.
The Heart of Henry Quantum, by Pepper Harding, will be released on hardcover through Gallery Books on October 4. To pre-order the book Click Here.