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Novy’s Son: The Selfish Genius

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Novy’s Son: The Selfish Genius
From his early childhood, Murray Clark sought love and acceptance from his father, who was raised as the bastard child of a famous artist. Murray struggled with jealousy toward his younger brothers, and he questioned the morals and values of people around him.

As an adult, Matthew lived life his way, with years of lying, womanizing, and heavy drinking. Though married four times, did he ever find unconditional love? Would Murray’s high intelligence, his love for his two daughters, and his unique philosophy of life help him rise above his demons?
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I am familiar with Karen Ingalls’ work, having chosen this novel after reading Davida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Since I read that book first, when I read Novy’s Son I was provided with a natural timeline of a family riddled by natural spirit, which, however creative or inspiring, seems to invariably place them in a position to be judged. I was pleased to reacquaint myself with Novy, the son of the notorious artist Mr. Augustus Saint-Gaudens. But years spent with a doting mother who was spurned by society and left unsupported by a career-obsessed father has made him cold. Despite this, he and his wife have a son (and other children as well), the protagonist of this book, Murray Clark.

It is an interesting journey to begin reading a character’s story when he or she is a child. In a way, it is easier to understand the foibles of the protagonist once one has become familiar with his or her past. While Novy is labelled selfish and is considered a wholly unlikable character, it is made clear that there is no absence of love in his heart. There is a history of disassociation in the men who precede him; each have a proclivity to rely on himself and his habits. That being said, it is no shock that Murray exhibits that same self-defensive mode that keeps him at a safe distance from the world around him, even if this mode entails self-destruction. The tenderness readers see in him as a child while he grows up in southern California leaves within the reader some hope that he is human after all and capable of showing compassion.

I regard Karen Ingalls as a skilled writer, her style easily identifiable by its matter-of-fact tone. What struck me as distracting, an error that affected the quality of my reading experience, was the random assortment of Herman Melville quotes. In addition, the e-book formatting had no distinct paragraph spacing, which made the sudden appearance of a Melville quote even more jarring. Technological structuring aside, the story is worth reading, although I suggest reading Davida first!
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