Man, Underground by Mark Hummel
A damaged recluse and a feisty teenager join forces to find meaning in a world beset by banality and indifference. Both have reasons for failing to connect with society but come to the understanding that even the darkness within ourselves may be the source of light.
This story of a man seeking refuge from life by building a home underground and a precocious teen seeking to escape from a metaphorical life underground in a soulless suburban existence is a wonderful excursion into the possibilities of redemption through friendship and understanding. The two principal characters occupy the greatest part of this tale, although there are appearances of ancillary actors, most of whom offer a variation of comic and tragic influences. There is humor here of a fine quality that will be appreciated by those who love art and literature.
The protagonist is a man damaged by life and the tragedies it brings. His response is to construct a home entirely underground except for the entrance the door to which stands naked in the lot upon which he dwells. There are large windows that open onto an abandoned gravel pit that are not visible from the street and so appearances are that he lives in darkness. His interests are music, writing and drawing and he occupies his time with these enterprises until one day his reclusive existence is challenged by a seventeen-year-old girl who comes unbidden to save him from municipal abuse. The town in which he lives seems likely to find ways of driving him out as neighborhoods of more conventional homes grow around him. The neighbors, of course, do not like his unconventional home or lifestyle and view him with suspicion. Monika, the young savior of this unlikely hero is convinced that the city will try to seize his property, perhaps by eminent domain and it is her mission to prevent this injustice.
They embark on a series of quite amusing adventures designed (by Monika) to bring him out of his shell and equip him to face the onslaught of civil strife that seems pending. As they journey through these experiences their friendship grows and wanes but always progresses into an intellectual and philosophical bond that is heartening to witness.
Written with great skill and giving evidence of a brilliant mind harboring a wide-awake worldview this is pure delight to read. It is also substantial and nourishing to the soul of those of us who suspect that the world is not a lovely place unless we make it so. I consider it to be a true work of literature, worthy of any reader’s time and attention.