Once You Go Back: A Novel
Once You Go Back is a poignant and semi-autobiographical novel about a young man and his quest for identity as he grows up in a dysfunctional working-class household. While Seven Stories Press is most widely known for its books on politics, human rights, and social and economic justice, the publisher continues to champion literature; Once You Go Back does not prevail this philosophy. Martin's highly poetic writing style is an example of high-brow literature in its prime.
The novel begins with a short chapter titled "A Tall One," which basically sets up the tone and scenario of the protagonist speaking to his sister, which he does throughout the entire book. Martin's New Narrative style of writing provides an interesting approach stylistically and experimentally, but sometimes tends to be a difficult read to due to the lack of dialogue in the novel.
The novel follows the protagonist from the beginning of his childhood all the way up to high school when the family moves to the South. Still very poor, it is evident that the main character is very embarrassed about their poverty: "The poverty was embarrassing. We've started to know already we weren't going to be different. Every day there, we'd become more like where we were now."
I would recommend Once You Go Back if you are looking to read a poetically-written or New Narrative style book. As I mentioned earlier, there is not much dialogue so at times it really is almost as if you are reading one long poem. Also, there is a lot of sadness in this family so this is not the most uplifting book. However, it is an interesting read, and definitely worth learning how the protagonist and his family are able to deal with the challenges they face throughout their lives.