Diamond Sutra
Colin Hester
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Buy *Diamond Sutra* online Diamond Sutra

Colin Hester
338 pages
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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First-time novelist Colin Hester makes a promising debut with Diamond Sutra. An odyssey of the spirit, this story spins gossamer threads of Zen, devotion, grief and deliverance to create an engrossing, touching whole. Its style challenges, being bereft of quotation marks to contain the dialogue. Verbal exchanges and scene changes occur at the speed of thought, and the resulting texture is one that tickles and provokes the mind.

Curled Up With a Good BookProtagonist Rudyard Gillette has endured in forty years of living more dramatic upheavals than most people who finish out their full allotment of years. His alcoholic father's affair with the mother of a member of the youth hockey team he coaches drives Rud's own mother to flee, and ultimately to her untimely death. Rud's stepmother, anything but wicked, becomes estranged from her own son, Troy, who happens to be one of Rud's closest childhood companions. Troy and Rud share an affection for Gale Harmon, a beautiful girl who chooses neither in youth. Bounced among England, Canada and the States, Rud becomes a man without devotion to a single country, an apt reflection of his unmoored soul. He becomes a textbook salesman, gets the incorrigible Troy a job with his company, and ends up working for Troy, who climbs quickly up the management ladder. Rud's shares his part-time girlfriend, Amaranta, with a baseball player for the Bluejays, and he has neither the drive nor necessary emotions to try to force her to a choice. His father comes to live with him after being kicked out for his drinking by Rud's stepmother. Rud keeps the top of his townhouse to himself, while his father converts the lower level into a sort of Goodwill-furnished garden apartment.

Rud's life plods unambitiously along like this until the worst in a seemingly endless series of quiet disasters happens. Rud's father commits suicide in a mysteriously peculiar fashion, and Rud goes completely adrift. Unable to bring closure to the grief and questions his father's death fills him with, Rud begins obsessively reading obituaries, looking for clues and answers to soothe his own unease. When he comes across an obituary for Gale Harmon's father, also a suicide, he seeks Gale out. Rud finds her wallowing in her own despair, putting together an anthology of great writers whose lives ended at their own hands. Gale disappears a scant time later, and suddenly Rud's life has direction. His goal is to find Gale again, to save her from herself and her unquenchable anguish.

Rud knows only that Gale has gone to a Buddhist retreat, and begins a back-and-forth cross country journey to find her. After months of searching, he finally finds her. What he also finds is a disillusioned roshi, a onetime Japanese baseball player, whose faith Gale is trying to restore. Rud becomes immersed in the habits and hard work of Zen. As he labors to save Gale and his new mentor, he will find that he is, in the end, saving himself.

Diamond Sutra climaxes with one of the most delightful, quietly hilarious series of scenes lately written. The novel wraps up every loose end, satisfying the sense of fairness readers demand. The enigmatic and affecting denouement leaves the reader with a happily aching heart. Rud is the most endearingly befuddled protagonist since Quoyle of E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News. One can only hope that Colin Hester writes more.

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