Seven Holes for Air is a heartbreaking story of a stoic man coming to terms with his coming death at the hands of cancer. It looks at how we perceive ourselves, how our past influences our present day behavior, and what truly makes a man.
Bob has had a headache for months but refuses to go to the doctor. He is too busy working on a new building where the foreman and company owner are behaving shady and is wanting to build a shed for his daughter to store her things when she comes home from college. After his wife Lisa schedules an appointment and conveniences her brother-in-law to take him, he soon finds out he has cancer. Trying to handle the treatment, his job and his home responsibilities, is leading him to fantasize about an alternate life where he is a farmer out in the west in the time of the railroad being built. There, his past, present, and work all meld together to let him play out both what is happening along with what he wishes would happen.
This story is a beautiful character study on a man, beaten as a child, growing up with a very stoic and western movie perception of what a man should be. This cowboy stoicism causes him to avoid the doctor and in turn allowed the cancer to spread far beyond the ability for treatment to save his life. But it is also the reason he is able to save his family from bankruptcy at the hands of his vengeful employers and to push through to ensure he leaves something for his daughter when he’s gone.
Though the title is in reference to a horrific and traumatic experience he had as a child, there is imagery harkening back to it throughout the book. This is a nice touch, especially tying the past, present, and fantasy all together. The art style is a little raw for my tastes, but does serve the story well.
Though there is action, it is the characters and plot that makes it a must read. It is a story that seems so grounded in reality and in turn makes it feel like Bob is someone you know. If you can handle a sad story with an ending that isn’t exactly happy but nonetheless fulfilling, then it is well worth the read.