Endless shagging

Ash Wednesday

Ethan Hawke <em>Bloomsbury, 221pp, £14.99</em>

ISBN 074756003X

Ethan Hawke, a regular guy from New York, married with two children and one of the lucky few to have their second novel published. Except that he's not really a regular guy at all; he is the Oscar-nominated Ethan Hawke, the trendy actor with the even trendier name.

We are introduced to Jimmy Heartsock, driving his "kick-ass car" while high on crystal meth. He's an army man, reluctantly following in his father's footsteps. "Just because something's your destiny doesn't mean it's gonna be any good," he announces, with characteristic disaffection. The opening set piece, in which a chemically intoxicated Jimmy has to inform a mother of her son's recent death, is the best in the book. Hawke creates a moment of sickening insensitivity as Jimmy fluffs his lines spectacularly.

From here on, the book pans out into a standard road novel, in which Jimmy is reunited with the love of his life, Christy, and they drive across America to get married. The couple, whose "destiny was to break each other's hearts, to destroy each other", bicker to the point of tedium, an irritation alleviated only by Hawke's device of oscillating between Jimmy and Christy as narrators. Hawke presents the relationship from all sides, and we soon realise that it is a loving yet empty partnership that revolves almost entirely around sex. They have sex in the car, sex in a hotel, sex in a church, sex in the ocean. Such is the endless shagging that it's a wonder Jimmy is at all surprised when Christy announces that she is pregnant.

The extended families of the protagonists offer a great deal more interest and reconfirm Hawke's potential. The breakdown and suicide of Jimmy's father are particularly well described, and Christy's suitably nasty dad, whose role is to drag up embarrassing moments from her past, is a memorable creation. Now for the film, with Hawke no doubt in the starring role.