Great Book: To Have and Have Not, by Ernest Hemingway

My dad forced a couple Hemingway works down my throat when I was in middle school (vague memory of bullfighting), but this is the first time I've revisited his work as an adult.

To Have And Have Not is a series of vignettes about life in the Keys and Cuba immediately post-War. Not immediately obvious post-what-war, though I eventually concluded it was the First one. Harry Morgan is a local boater bouncing around between the keys and Cuba trying to earn enough to feed his family through fishing, smuggling, etc. Then there are the conches - more desperate than Harry, trying to feed four mouths on the pay they earn digging ditches. There are the tourists, hating each other and their lives. There are the rich boaters, superficial, tight, and living off other men's blood. Of course, they're pretty much all tight now that I think about it. Drunk and mostly unhappy.

The one thing that seems to separate the hypocrites from the genuine article here is their connection with nature. Harry, his wife, and the conches are close to nature, connected to the ocean and the sky, fully physical beings experiencing their lives. They find refuge from the occasional horror and grinding routine of their lives in the natural beauty around them and in each other. But even that doesn't protect them from the casual brutality and corruption.

The book ends with a first-person narrative from Harry's wife, mourning him. If I had to draw a moral it would be from the comparison of her vibrant emotions of grief and love with the flaccid, pointless, lives of the denizens of nearby yachts. They don't experience grief, but neither do they experience the thrilling joy that comes from living live fully.

Alexander Adams annoyed me as a reader for Bill Bryson, but his voice was absolutely perfect for this work. I highly recommend this audio edition.

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