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The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a timeless coming-of-age tale that, as novelist David Armstrong observed, “is like discovering The Catcher in the Rye all over again.” Protagonist Kit Biddle is a rising prep school senior who finds himself tangled in a web of spiritual quandaries and intellectual absurdities. Kit’s angst is compounded by a unique psychological burden he is The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a timeless coming-of-age tale that, as novelist David Armstrong observed, “is like discovering The Catcher in the Rye all over again.” Protagonist Kit Biddle is a rising prep school senior who finds himself tangled in a web of spiritual quandaries and intellectual absurdities. Kit’s angst is compounded by a unique psychological burden he is forced to carry: his intelligent but unstable Uncle Nat has committed an unspeakable act on what, according to the Uncle’s deranged account, were direct orders from God. The tragedy haunting his family follows Kit like a dark and foreboding cloud, exacerbating his already compulsive struggle with existential questions about the meaning of his life. When the brilliant, perhaps phantasmic, Anna dismisses him, Kit quickly spirals into despair and self-destruction. But when his irrational decision to steal a maintenance truck and speed aimlessly down the highway ends in a horrific accident and months of both physical and emotional convalescence, Kit is forced to examine his perceptions of his life and his version of reality. In this exquisite bildungsroman, calamity leads to fresh perspectives and new perceptions: it focuses Kit’s mind and forces him to confront the issues that plague him. Readers will empathize—and celebrate—as the darkness lifts and Kit comes to terms with the necessity of engagement with life’s pain, pleasure . . . and absurdity. ​An intelligent, clever, and captivating tale, The Essence of Nathan Biddle soars in the spaces that exist between despair and hope, darkness and light, love and loss. Beautifully written, profoundly moving, and resplendent with characters destined to remain with you long after the last page is turned, The Essence of Nathan Biddle is unforgettable.


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The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a timeless coming-of-age tale that, as novelist David Armstrong observed, “is like discovering The Catcher in the Rye all over again.” Protagonist Kit Biddle is a rising prep school senior who finds himself tangled in a web of spiritual quandaries and intellectual absurdities. Kit’s angst is compounded by a unique psychological burden he is The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a timeless coming-of-age tale that, as novelist David Armstrong observed, “is like discovering The Catcher in the Rye all over again.” Protagonist Kit Biddle is a rising prep school senior who finds himself tangled in a web of spiritual quandaries and intellectual absurdities. Kit’s angst is compounded by a unique psychological burden he is forced to carry: his intelligent but unstable Uncle Nat has committed an unspeakable act on what, according to the Uncle’s deranged account, were direct orders from God. The tragedy haunting his family follows Kit like a dark and foreboding cloud, exacerbating his already compulsive struggle with existential questions about the meaning of his life. When the brilliant, perhaps phantasmic, Anna dismisses him, Kit quickly spirals into despair and self-destruction. But when his irrational decision to steal a maintenance truck and speed aimlessly down the highway ends in a horrific accident and months of both physical and emotional convalescence, Kit is forced to examine his perceptions of his life and his version of reality. In this exquisite bildungsroman, calamity leads to fresh perspectives and new perceptions: it focuses Kit’s mind and forces him to confront the issues that plague him. Readers will empathize—and celebrate—as the darkness lifts and Kit comes to terms with the necessity of engagement with life’s pain, pleasure . . . and absurdity. ​An intelligent, clever, and captivating tale, The Essence of Nathan Biddle soars in the spaces that exist between despair and hope, darkness and light, love and loss. Beautifully written, profoundly moving, and resplendent with characters destined to remain with you long after the last page is turned, The Essence of Nathan Biddle is unforgettable.

30 review for The Essence of Nathan Biddle

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a bildungsroman of sorts, set in the 1950’s Alabama, as Kit narrates his life as a high school senior who is coming to terms with the unspeakable tragedy that in his Uncle Nat’s derangement, credits as God’s idea. With this horrific incident looming over his family, he spirals himself into depression and ends up convalescing after getting involved in a harrowing accident. This character driven story is brilliantly told through the eyes of a brooding teen trying to The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a bildungsroman of sorts, set in the 1950’s Alabama, as Kit narrates his life as a high school senior who is coming to terms with the unspeakable tragedy that in his Uncle Nat’s derangement, credits as God’s idea. With this horrific incident looming over his family, he spirals himself into depression and ends up convalescing after getting involved in a harrowing accident. This character driven story is brilliantly told through the eyes of a brooding teen trying to find the meaning of his life, understand the grief and loss he has suffered, feel love and acceptance, all the while trying to successfully navigate his remaining high school years when everything seems to be against him.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    The Essence Of Nathan Biddle is the first novel by American author J. William Lewis. Some six years after his cousin Nathan was murdered by his Uncle Nat under instructions from God, Kit Biddle is in a mess. His high-school academic performance has dropped to the extent that his teachers, his track coach and his mom are urging him to do better, to work harder, to get with the program. Within a matter of days, his adored girlfriend, Anna has dropped him; he learns that a close friend’s mother is The Essence Of Nathan Biddle is the first novel by American author J. William Lewis. Some six years after his cousin Nathan was murdered by his Uncle Nat under instructions from God, Kit Biddle is in a mess. His high-school academic performance has dropped to the extent that his teachers, his track coach and his mom are urging him to do better, to work harder, to get with the program. Within a matter of days, his adored girlfriend, Anna has dropped him; he learns that a close friend’s mother is having an affair; he stumbles on a Peeping Tom; he is mistaken for his cousin; a friend’s sister declares her years-long crush on him; and he almost accidentally saves a black man’s life, but later is given to doubt it was worth saving. But all he really wants to do is run, alone, and ponder the real meaning of life. And then he is seriously injured when he rolls a stolen truck, and is forced to spend a long time recuperating. As well as morphine-fuelled dreams, there are interactions with family, friends, and teachers, and a disturbing letter from his mentally-ill uncle. Weekly sessions with a psychiatrist gradually eke out the details of the life events that led up to Kit’s current travails and, eventually, the source of his identity crisis. In 1950’s Alabama, a traumatic event like Nathan’s murder didn’t automatically attract counselling: Martha Biddle and her son move away from their small town to avoid the notoriety, and don’t speak of what happened. Kit grows into a puzzled, wary and fretful teen, a poet and a runner. Patience is required for the first half of the novel as Kit’s convoluted thought processes can feel just a bit tedious. There is humour, though, in the conversations with his young Uncle Newt, with his friends, in Newt’s limericks, and in some of what Kit relates during his psych sessions. The inverse proportionality axioms that Kit and his friend Lichtman devise are particularly entertaining, even if some are politically incorrect in today’s world: “The Biddle-Lichtman theory of quantum yearning holds that the desirability of a thing is inversely proportional to its availability” and “a person’s tolerance for noise is inversely proportional to his intelligence quotient.” Also “The basic physical-attraction axiom (we called it the “special theory of physical attraction”) is that the attractiveness of a girl is inversely proportional to your attractiveness to her. And the second law (the “general theory”) is equally true and immutable: The number of girls you find attractive is inversely proportional to the number who find you attractive.” Lewis easily evokes the era and setting, as well as the late 1950’s Southern mindset, and his characters feel authentic. While there will be readers who are dissatisfied with the unresolved identity issue at the conclusion, this is an impressive literary debut that will appeal especially, but not exclusively, to readers of a certain vintage. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Greenleaf Book Group.

  3. 4 out of 5

    DJ Sakata

    Favorite Quotes: Newt is blessed with a mass of unruly blond hair, an engaging smile, and a con man’s gift of schmooze. He has found little difficulty convincing women that he is misunderstood; he has had some difficulty getting them to remain convinced for more than a year, sometimes even less than that. The “general theory of cranial calibration,” as Lichtman and I formulated it, is that the size of a girl’s brain is inversely proportional to the size of her boobs. “He thinks he’s a wit,” I said Favorite Quotes: Newt is blessed with a mass of unruly blond hair, an engaging smile, and a con man’s gift of schmooze. He has found little difficulty convincing women that he is misunderstood; he has had some difficulty getting them to remain convinced for more than a year, sometimes even less than that. The “general theory of cranial calibration,” as Lichtman and I formulated it, is that the size of a girl’s brain is inversely proportional to the size of her boobs. “He thinks he’s a wit,” I said testily. “He’s only half right.” An exquisite random squib had appeared in the dark of my life, and I was grateful. I can’t remember some things and I’m sure I’m going to forget some more, but I’ll bet I won’t ever forget Cassandra prancing on that log wearing her plain cotton panties and a devilish grin. Maybe the really beautiful things are like that: little glowing sparks in the mundane darkness of everyday existence. He has become my mother’s “special friend” whose specialness I have unfortunately failed to appreciate. He all about booze and self-pity. He caught tragedy and now he spreads it like a virus. Newt says he and Uncle Nat fought a lot, and he stopped shaving and bathing and looked and acted like Bigfoot on a moonshine binge. She’s pretty, but she’s not bright. Lichtman described her perfectly. He said Dayla is built like an Italian sports car but her engine sputters. If you mention something more complicated than shoe size or the weather, she’ll stare at you like you’ve said something in Swahili. My Review: I am conflicted about how to rate this one. I struggled with this book, and valiantly I might add. I had even considered a DNF but there were pros and cons to pushing forward and I’m honestly glad I did, but it was an arduous and challenging read. I found it cleverly amusing and wittily insightful for the most part but I also felt oddly annoyed and aggravated and it took considerable effort to push through the various characters’ cerebral postulating as well as the stratospheric level of vocabulary used. I typically read a book a day, yet this one took me three. The main character of Kit had an odd childhood and bizarre family who obviously had a surfeit of intelligence but didn’t know what to do with it. Kit was floundering and exasperating. He was also unfocused, lazy, obsessive, uncommitted, aimless, and besotted with a girl who clearly and repeatedly told him she wasn’t interested. His teenaged angst and general malaise had me appreciating the fact I no longer have to work with adolescents. Retirement is sweeeeet! The premise and storylines were oddly compelling while cast with a quirky collection of characters who, other than the lovely Sarah, were disturbingly repellent and truly ghastly creatures. I reveled in the humor of his descriptions and observations of others, but I was often felt bogged down in the prose. The author either has a treasure trove of unusual words circling his cranium or wrote with a thesaurus in his lap. I just know I am thankful I read on a Kindle with a built-in dictionary. I love words and while being far from mentally deficient I felt as such as I wore the battery down on my beloved device while frequently required to halt my perusal to look up the meanings of words like pluperfect, opacity, and lagniappe. Uncommon words I will most likely have to look up again if I ever run across them a second time. But my main source of discontent was the ending, there wasn’t one. I am still stamping my little foot in pique; I need a semblance of closure and don’t have it. However, when I looked back at my highlighted and favorite passages, which were significantly pared down in this review, I was awed by the author’s craft and am determined to respect his process.

  4. 4 out of 5

    KarenK2

    I received this from Netgalley.com. "A tale of existential angst told by 18-year-old Kit Biddle who is struggling with the complexities of life." An okay read with okay characters that didn't seem to come to full steam and truly grab my interest. The existentialism aspect was a becoming boring and a tad overdone. I kept expecting Kit to over think just one more thing, tip over the edge and go stark raving mad .. which is the age for the onset of schizophrenia symptoms . 2.25 stars I received this from Netgalley.com. "A tale of existential angst told by 18-year-old Kit Biddle who is struggling with the complexities of life." An okay read with okay characters that didn't seem to come to full steam and truly grab my interest. The existentialism aspect was a becoming boring and a tad overdone. I kept expecting Kit to over think just one more thing, tip over the edge and go stark raving mad .. which is the age for the onset of schizophrenia symptoms . 2.25 stars

  5. 5 out of 5

    Martie Nees Record

    Genre: Coming of Age Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Pub. Date: June 1, 2021 The story takes place in the 1950s and revolves around Kit Biddle. He is a depressed, male teenager, who is searching for the meaning of life. This is demonstrated through his actions as well as his writing of existential poems. The highest critique of this ambitious novel is that it takes very little time for the reader to compare “The Essence of Nathan Biddle,” to “The Catcher in the Rye.” Kit, who is beautifully writte Genre: Coming of Age Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Pub. Date: June 1, 2021 The story takes place in the 1950s and revolves around Kit Biddle. He is a depressed, male teenager, who is searching for the meaning of life. This is demonstrated through his actions as well as his writing of existential poems. The highest critique of this ambitious novel is that it takes very little time for the reader to compare “The Essence of Nathan Biddle,” to “The Catcher in the Rye.” Kit, who is beautifully written, will remind you of Holden Caulfield many times. In “Catcher,” Holden finds himself in a hospital for the mentally ill. Kit also lands in a hospital after a car crash, which may or may not have been a suicide attempt. While there, Kit begins his journey of physical as well as mental health recovery. The harshest criticism of “Essence” is that while Kit is learning to find a less depressing meaning of life, the story becomes repetitive. Still, the author does such a good job of showing the reader life’s unfairness and illogicality that I recommend trying this novel. I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review. Find all my book reviews at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list… https://books6259.wordpress.com/ https://www.barnesandnoble.com/review… https://www.facebook.com/martie.neesr… https://twitter.com/NeesRecord\ https://www.instagram.com/martie6947/ https://www.amazon.com/ https://www.pinterest.com/martienreco…\

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Wow, beautifully written, which doesn't exactly jive with the story, to my mind. There is just no denying the writing brilliance. Kit narrates his story, coming of age, family, mental illness, questioning endlessly, first love, a murder, high intelligence clouded by doubt, a terrible accident. Kit is surrounded by family and, as with most families, the members are varied. His friends are the same way, but being a highly intelligent kid, Kit has few real friends. He is ending high school years bu Wow, beautifully written, which doesn't exactly jive with the story, to my mind. There is just no denying the writing brilliance. Kit narrates his story, coming of age, family, mental illness, questioning endlessly, first love, a murder, high intelligence clouded by doubt, a terrible accident. Kit is surrounded by family and, as with most families, the members are varied. His friends are the same way, but being a highly intelligent kid, Kit has few real friends. He is ending high school years but doesn't know what is next. Ever-present memories of his first love haunt him. A new lady enters. The circumstances of his birth are in question. Kit is lost and depressed. Don't be put off by the beginning of the book, which spews quantities of higher math and the like. No, the whole book isn't like that. If you love math, you may love this part. We are learning about Kit's intelligence here, and how and what he thinks. He's not an average young man, and thus attracts friends who are more like him. The workings of Kit's mind help the reader consider things "outside the box". I loved some of the phrases in this book. This title isn't published yet, and I received an ARC to review from Library Thing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sam Sattler

    The Essence of Nathan Biddle, by J. Williams Lewis, is one of the more satisfying debut novels that I have read for a long time. Here, Lewis, himself an Alabama native, uses the Alabama coastal region of the 1950s as setting for the coming-of-age story of a remarkable young man, Kit Biddle, a high school senior who may just be a little too intelligent for his own good. It can’t be a good sign when a high school student starts obsessing too much over questions about the meaning of life and why ot The Essence of Nathan Biddle, by J. Williams Lewis, is one of the more satisfying debut novels that I have read for a long time. Here, Lewis, himself an Alabama native, uses the Alabama coastal region of the 1950s as setting for the coming-of-age story of a remarkable young man, Kit Biddle, a high school senior who may just be a little too intelligent for his own good. It can’t be a good sign when a high school student starts obsessing too much over questions about the meaning of life and why others insist on seeing him through their own versions of reality. Kit feels like a fraud, and he doesn’t like to feel that way. But to Kit’s credit, if anyone has a reason to wonder about the meaning of life and who he really is, it’s probably him. Kit and his mother only moved to the city after Nathan Biddle, Kit’s cousin, was murdered by his own father, a man who still believes that he sacrificed the little boy only because God instructed him to do exactly that. Crazy Uncle Nat, as Kit has thought of him ever since, practically destroyed his whole family that day. Although Kit’s other uncle, Newt, is only eight years older than him, Kit grew up believing that Newt was always right, that he knew all the answers to all the important questions. When, after the murder Newt “dropped out of everything except beer joints,” Kit had to start answering even life’s toughest questions for himself. Despite the Biddle family tragedy, an event of which almost everyone in town is well aware, Kit is doing pretty well for himself before being unceremoniously dumped by Anna, his brilliant and breathtakingly beautiful girlfriend. He is probably the fastest runner on the school’s track team, and he is well on his way to being ranked high in the top ten graduates of his entire class. After Anna’s rejection, however, Kit decides to start doing things his way; he will be the person he knows himself to be, not the person everyone else believes, or wants, him to be. And the next thing Kit knows, he is speeding down the highway in a stolen golf course maintenance truck, about to have the terrible accident that will change the rest of his life. If he really wants answers to life’s big questions, he is going to have to have help. And it is going to be a long way back. Bottom Line: The Essence of Nathan Biddle, while not exactly a feel-good novel, is certainly an inspirational one. It is impossible not to pull for Kit Biddle as he goes through his emotional and physical struggles — and it is equally difficult not to worry about the girl who comes into Kit’s life after Anna - so when Kit finally turns the corner by openly confronting the Biddle family problems, the reader feels a sense of relief for both of them. Maybe Kit is smart enough to figure out all the answers after all. Review Copy provided by Publisher

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    3-1/2 stars Review of eBook In 1950s Alabama, precocious high school senior Kit [Kittridge Carr Biddle], feeling alienated and caught in the throes of an existential crisis, spends most of his time brooding about his identity. It’s true that he’s had some truly difficult/horrific things to deal with . . . the death of his father and the murder of his cousin, Nathan, come immediately to mind. His father died in a car crash when Kit was four and his uncle [who insisted God told him to sacrifice his 3-1/2 stars Review of eBook In 1950s Alabama, precocious high school senior Kit [Kittridge Carr Biddle], feeling alienated and caught in the throes of an existential crisis, spends most of his time brooding about his identity. It’s true that he’s had some truly difficult/horrific things to deal with . . . the death of his father and the murder of his cousin, Nathan, come immediately to mind. His father died in a car crash when Kit was four and his uncle [who insisted God told him to sacrifice his son just as in the Biblical account of Abraham and Isaac] is now in a mental institution. Despite the efforts of teacher Ira Marcus [who reads Kit’s poetry and tries to help him resolve his issues], Kit has allowed his schoolwork to suffer. Kit’s current obsession is his former girlfriend Anna, who wants only to be friends, and his current girlfriend, Sarah. Kit all but worships Anna, to the detriment of his relationship with Sarah. Will Kit find the answers he seeks or will the rising tide of his own delusions keep him ensnared in a quagmire of uncertainty? Told from Kit’s point of view, the four-section story focuses on the teen’s continual fretting regarding the meaning of things. Defined by his self-adopted persona of a tragic figure and by his poetry, Kit cannot pull himself out of his own morass of gloom. He’s tired of hearing that success will come if only he would apply himself, but he makes no particular effort to change. Despite the strangeness of Kit’s self-introspective analyses, there are hints of intrigue in the unfolding story and the haunting tone of the narrative in its early chapters draws the reader into the telling of the tale. But the teen’s maudlin outlook and incessant despondence are anything but climacteric and the reiteration eventually becomes frustrating. Unfortunately, the second half of the book, [wherein the accident that claimed his father’s life and the taking of Nathan’s life play major roles], falls into annoying repetition and absurdity. This is especially true for an outrageous last-minute, out-of-the-blue suggestion that does nothing to advance the story but does invoke intense eye-rolling in the reader. While this angst-ridden coming-of-age tale offers readers some truly adumbrative moments, it doesn’t quite reach the level of a truly influential narrative for the Bildungsroman genre. I received a free copy of this eBook from Greenleaf Book Group / Greenleaf Book Group Press and NetGalley #TheEssenceofNathanBiddle #NetGalley

  9. 4 out of 5

    Reader Views

    Amy Lignor for Reader Views: “The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a brilliant coming of age tale by J. William Lewis. There were definite reasons why I became an avid reader and writer. My librarian mom was the first and most important who opened the door to it all. But there were also certain titles that hit me right between the eyes. Some of those were placed in the “Classic American” literature category; loosely translated, this means those books teachers still make students study in school becau Amy Lignor for Reader Views: “The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a brilliant coming of age tale by J. William Lewis. There were definite reasons why I became an avid reader and writer. My librarian mom was the first and most important who opened the door to it all. But there were also certain titles that hit me right between the eyes. Some of those were placed in the “Classic American” literature category; loosely translated, this means those books teachers still make students study in school because they’ve become a part of our very culture. Holden Caulfield, the introspective teen in Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” was one of those memorable characters imbedded in a coming-of-age plot that was absolutely perfect. After reading this, in my eyes, Kit Biddle—the protagonist in this incredible story—takes his place with Caulfield as being one that readers will treasure for all time. Kit Biddle is a senior in high school. Among other issues that are “norm” for adolescents, Kit also has to deal with a family tragedy that has his own Uncle Nat at the center of it all. Nat, for lack of a better term, is a real loon. According to his own rendition of the past, Nat committed a horrible act because…he was ordered by the Lord to do so. Kit also has a deep desire for the dream-like Anna, an intelligent girl who turns away from him and sends him falling into an emotional depression that leads Kit to also make extremely poor decisions. When Kit finds himself in an accident, he is then looking at a near future that is beyond bleak; he must take a long time to recuperate – long enough where he must come to terms with all of life’s anomalies, worries, and the oddities that lie around every corner. He has to take a step back and use this time to come out of the depressive darkness, reevaluate everything in order to better understand the meaning of life, and perhaps even see his Uncle Nat’s choices in a different way. I love clever authors, and I have to say that J. William Lewis is one of the cleverest I’ve read in a long time. Kit makes the heart sink, cry, scream, and empathize with the character all at the same time. The mixture of Kit, Uncle Nat, Anna, Sarah, and others with their puppet master, Lewis, is extraordinary; even though some characters were meant to be bit players, each and every one is essential to the tale. I could also visualize everything because of how well it’s written, especially Dr. Goolsby and Harbo when it came to the golf course. (Who are they? Read the book!) The ladder is very high when it comes to novels that are good enough, deep enough, challenging and entertaining enough to be among the true classics. But this…this has definitely ascended that ladder (for me) and taken its place among the best. If this book doesn’t win every award possible for its genre, I will be shocked. 5 Stars, and if I could give 10, I would. Enjoy this; it’s a gift!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ricki Treleaven

    I absolutely love this book. I will start with Kit: He is a character I will never forget. Told from his point of view, I was completely mesmerized with his story from start to finish. Adolescence is difficult at best, excruciating at worst. Unfortunately for Kit, he has a trifecta of encumbrances impeding his development: a tragic family history; his break-up with the immaculate Anna; and a sensitive intellect that just won't quit. He strives to find meaning via his philosophical readings and p I absolutely love this book. I will start with Kit: He is a character I will never forget. Told from his point of view, I was completely mesmerized with his story from start to finish. Adolescence is difficult at best, excruciating at worst. Unfortunately for Kit, he has a trifecta of encumbrances impeding his development: a tragic family history; his break-up with the immaculate Anna; and a sensitive intellect that just won't quit. He strives to find meaning via his philosophical readings and poetry writing but becomes jaded as history's great thinkers are a huge disappointment to him. J. William Lewis's method for telling Kit's story is very Southern in style. It does have a Southern gothic edge to it, and I was reminded of Flannery O'Connor's stories as this novel is definitely character-driven with very well-drawn characters. The mood and atmosphere remind me of other Southern classics, especially the clash between lightness and darkness. Although Kit doesn't always trust his perceptions of reality, I appreciate his detailed observations as well as his questionable anamneses during his recovery. Kit sometimes exhausted me because he's a runner, and he runs quite a bit around South Alabama in the heat: But that's the only characteristic Kit shares with another South Alabama literary giant, Winston Groom's Forrest Gump. There are literary allusions galore in this book, so my inner nerd was very happy. I found so many little literary (and maths!) gems sparkling throughout the story. This is one of the best books I've read in years, and I truly believe it will become a Southern classic. I was saddened when I finished the book because I would love to read about Kit's next chapter. I plan to order a hardcopy of the book for our home library, and I'm also ordering a copy for our oldest daughter's library, too.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Romero

    Oh, the exquisite angst of young adulthood. Our MC Kit Biddle is a star. Smart and athletic he could have it all. The problem is Kit doesn’t even know if he is Kit. This reminded me so much of Catcher in the Rye. So much tragedy and so much talking about it. Let me say the writing itself is beautiful. I re-read many passages. I kept wondering who was who and what were they all so shady about? In the end, I had way more questions than answers. It felt incomplete. Some of the relationships were not e Oh, the exquisite angst of young adulthood. Our MC Kit Biddle is a star. Smart and athletic he could have it all. The problem is Kit doesn’t even know if he is Kit. This reminded me so much of Catcher in the Rye. So much tragedy and so much talking about it. Let me say the writing itself is beautiful. I re-read many passages. I kept wondering who was who and what were they all so shady about? In the end, I had way more questions than answers. It felt incomplete. Some of the relationships were not explained and while the writing was lovely the story was confusing. NetGalley/June 1st, 2021 by Greenleaf Book Group Press

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    This book has been compared to Catcher in the Rye which I absolutely loved teaching! Protagonist Kit is very much like Holden but much more cerebral as he questions his very existence and has existential questions that had me pondering too. It's one of those books that keep you on the edge of your seat every minute (in a good way) as you struggle to understand Kit and his very odd family. I've always loved coming-of-age books--especially as a retired English teacher, but this one was unsettling This book has been compared to Catcher in the Rye which I absolutely loved teaching! Protagonist Kit is very much like Holden but much more cerebral as he questions his very existence and has existential questions that had me pondering too. It's one of those books that keep you on the edge of your seat every minute (in a good way) as you struggle to understand Kit and his very odd family. I've always loved coming-of-age books--especially as a retired English teacher, but this one was unsettling (again in a good way) as it's so relevant to society today as Kit must struggle with issues like mental health and "where do I fit in this world?" Read it. NOW! Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Norm Goldman

    The Essence of Nathan Biddle could have been nothing further than a coming-of-age story, but J. William Lewis has turned it into a thoughtful compelling narrative which in the end exacts quite an emotional toll Featured is an 18-year-old lad, Kittridge Carr Biddle (nicknamed Kit), whose most profound treasures of his complex mind are probed. Kit describes himself as a “fretter,” where he gets some images in his mind that won’t disappear. There always seems to be “something” troubling him. He is c The Essence of Nathan Biddle could have been nothing further than a coming-of-age story, but J. William Lewis has turned it into a thoughtful compelling narrative which in the end exacts quite an emotional toll Featured is an 18-year-old lad, Kittridge Carr Biddle (nicknamed Kit), whose most profound treasures of his complex mind are probed. Kit describes himself as a “fretter,” where he gets some images in his mind that won’t disappear. There always seems to be “something” troubling him. He is constantly worrying a great deal about the significance of “things.” And although he is not struggling to grow into a philosopher, he endeavors to uncover answers to very basic questions such as the nature of existence. Unfortunately, his insatiable reading habit does little to provide the answers he is seeking. Lewis introduces Kit to us in the opening pages of the tale on the first anniversary of the death of his cousin Nathan. As event unfold, we learn about the gruesome death of Nathan. He was murdered by his religiously fanatic father, the Reverend Nathaniel Tyler Bickle. The latter claimed God ordered him to kill his son. The Reverend ended up in a psychiatric institution. Another traumatic episode in Kit’s life was the death of his father when Kit was four years old. His father had plunged his car into a bridge abutment. Kit wonders if the accident was accidental or intentional. To make matters ever more difficult, Kit has recently been ditched by his sweetheart, Anna, who still wishes to remain as “friends.” Kit had met Anna one summer while toiling as a truck driver for his friend, Eddie Lichtman’s father’s furniture store. Anna explains to Kit that she is not someone who he thinks she is, but rather someone he has created in his mind. All of these milestones have caused Kit an immense deal of suffering and anguish. One of his teachers points out to him that he might be having a severe spiritual crisis. Nathan’s death, in particular, has an overwhelming impact on Kit as the two were remarkably close and were companions to one another. At school, Kit is acting up, and his teachers are deeply concerned. They feel that they have let him down. Whereas previously he was an outstanding student and athlete, his conduct looks to be spiraling out of control. He has been dropped from the honors program and appears to be drifting with no purpose. After being chucked aside by Anna, Kit becomes entangled with his friend’s sister, Sarah, who idolizes him; however, the feeling is not reciprocal. She may be delightful and bright, but she is not Anna. What gives Kit a moment of pause and a fresh perspective on his life is when he almost kills himself after stealing a flatbed maintenance truck from a country club. He winds up in the emergency room with major life-threatening injuries. The Essence of Nathan Biddle has all the polish and finish that readers might expect from an author with considerable more notable achievements. It is a rich well-paced seamless work loaded with feelings and philosophy. The writing is compelling and the story is narrated with a kind of magical realism. And despite an incredible amount packed into the novel, it glides effortlessly. Moreover, one of the joys of reading this story is the masterful manner in which Lewis portrays Kit. He honestly feels like a real person-someone we can easily root for to conquer his challenges and obstacles. His emotions are portrayed so realistically that readers can readily connect to him and sympathize with the torment he faces. `Follow Here https://waa.ai/mgND To Read Norm's Interview with J.William Lewis

  14. 4 out of 5

    Erin Britton

    The Essence of Nathan Biddle begins around five years after the death of the eponymous Nathan, although the full circumstances surrounding his demise are not immediately clear. What is clear, however, is the significant impact that Nathan’s death has had, particularly for his cousin Kit Biddle. While Kit had shown remarkable promise as an honors student and track star, the wheels seem to have come off during his junior year. After spending his youth beset by tragedy and misfortune, Kit seems to The Essence of Nathan Biddle begins around five years after the death of the eponymous Nathan, although the full circumstances surrounding his demise are not immediately clear. What is clear, however, is the significant impact that Nathan’s death has had, particularly for his cousin Kit Biddle. While Kit had shown remarkable promise as an honors student and track star, the wheels seem to have come off during his junior year. After spending his youth beset by tragedy and misfortune, Kit seems to be ending his high school career mired in existential angst. Having been dropped from all his honors classes except for English and in danger of being cut from the track team, Kit spends most of his time either debating meaning and nothingness with best friend Lichtman or pining over the aloof Anna. He writes poetry and reads Nietzsche, but nothing brings him the answers he is seeking. While Kit loves Anna, she blows confusingly hot and cold, seeming to favor the two of them remaining just friends. And then there’s Sarah, the sister of Kit’s former friend/current nemesis, who seems to have liked him for years and who has now finally caught his eye. A great deal of pressure is building in Kit’s head, and it seems likely there’s a significant implosion on the way… The story is told from Kit’s perspective and, while he’s a clear and interesting narrator, he’s not fully reliable. He forms strong and strongly fixed opinions about people in the way that teenagers are wont to do, but for all his reading and philosophizing, he’s not quite as perceptive as he thinks. For Kit, the world revolves around him and his tragedies, and that perspective means he often misses what is right in front of him. The Essence of Nathan Biddle isn’t a story of heroes and villains; rather, it’s a story of the flaws that plague average people and the corrosive nature of secrets. Things that are important and meaningful for Kit are side notes for other people, but despite what he thinks, there are people looking out for him. The principal secondary character in the book is Nathan Biddle, although by necessity he remains a phantom. He seems to have been an almost otherworldly character when alive, and in death he appears to be something of a watching/guiding presence for Kit. Everyone knows what happened to Kit’s cousin, but Kit himself only reveals what he knows toward the end of the book. There’s not exactly a mystery to be solved, but there are puzzles to be unraveled concerning Nathan’s death, Kit’s past, and the link between them. Ultimately, The Essence of Nathan Biddle is an impactful coming-of-age story about Kit Biddle’s experiences as he morphs from a youth who is heavily influenced by others into an adult who is responsible for his own destiny. 4.5 stars

  15. 5 out of 5

    Linda McCutcheon

    "No! Sometimes you just have to say no to other's people's reality." One of the most important lessons I ever learned is this above quote from the debut novel The Essence of Nathan Biddle by J. William Lewis. This philosophical coming of age story is a remarkable testament to thought provoking storytelling. Kit Biddle is a very intelligent high school senior with a bright future until all the turmoil of life become too much for him to comprehend. When you are a logical person the illogical essence "No! Sometimes you just have to say no to other's people's reality." One of the most important lessons I ever learned is this above quote from the debut novel The Essence of Nathan Biddle by J. William Lewis. This philosophical coming of age story is a remarkable testament to thought provoking storytelling. Kit Biddle is a very intelligent high school senior with a bright future until all the turmoil of life become too much for him to comprehend. When you are a logical person the illogical essence of life can literally drive you crazy. Kit's father died when he was four, his uncle is in prison and his cousin and best friend Nathan Biddle is dead. To top it all off his girlfriend just wants to be friends. These tragedies are just the beginning of Kit's journey. A near fatal car crash forces Kit to stay still so his body can heal and, perhaps, his mind can find peace too. As we learn the details about his father, uncle and cousin we see how family can shape us and often form our very being. There are so many surprising and detailed reveals about why Kit is at an existential crossroads and why there is a one legged heron on the cover of this book. This is a compelling read and one that not only shocked me at times but brought back many of my own questions about what is the meaning of our lives and why the one thing we all suffer is grief. With many questions and not always answers this is a book to get immersed in but to also question the characters perceptions. It is not quick or light reading but it will stay with you long after you finish it. I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Higgins

    To be trapped in the mind of a confuse Kit Biddle has been struggling with several things over the last year and it seems that it’s all coming to a head. He attends a local academy that he has thrived at, but over the last few months his grades have started to drop. He was a star in athletics and could run faster than anyone, but he just doesn’t care about practicing or participating for that matter. His girlfriend (perfect in his own mind) feels that she can’t be committed to anyone and needs to To be trapped in the mind of a confuse Kit Biddle has been struggling with several things over the last year and it seems that it’s all coming to a head. He attends a local academy that he has thrived at, but over the last few months his grades have started to drop. He was a star in athletics and could run faster than anyone, but he just doesn’t care about practicing or participating for that matter. His girlfriend (perfect in his own mind) feels that she can’t be committed to anyone and needs to play the field before she settles down. His best friend, usually always good to cheer him up, feels Kit is acting too depressed to deal with. The bulk of this depression may stem from an act that his uncle committed against his cousin Nathan claiming to be orders from God himself. Being stuck with Kit as the protagonist made this book rather depressing to read. As the reader, you see what is going on around him, but he just can’t see it for himself and it got quite infuriating at times. Plus, being set in the late 1950s, did high school kids really read that much classical literature that would cause them to talk the way they did? Maybe at this academy they do, but it seemed like something out of a Shakespeare story that was within a Shakespeare story, if you know what I mean. I did enjoy once Kit started working through everything and seeing things more in the light, which was the point of the story. I also thought the reference to Don Quixote were very well timed. There is some occasional language throughout plus two moderately detailed sex scenes in the book. I recommend this book for mature audiences. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a literary coming of age novel that is destine to be a best seller. It begins with Nathan mourning the death of his cousin on the first anniversary of the event. Seemingly inconceivable to everyone, especially Nathan, that the boy he’d grown up with has been slain. So begins Nathan’s journey through the last of his teenage years, trying to make sense of this senseless act as well as how to move on from the stigma that shrouds his family because of it. Life goes on The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a literary coming of age novel that is destine to be a best seller. It begins with Nathan mourning the death of his cousin on the first anniversary of the event. Seemingly inconceivable to everyone, especially Nathan, that the boy he’d grown up with has been slain. So begins Nathan’s journey through the last of his teenage years, trying to make sense of this senseless act as well as how to move on from the stigma that shrouds his family because of it. Life goes on no matter what personal problems Nathan is dealing with. He has fallen in love with a girl that once reciprocated his affections, but now she is moving on. He is obsessed with her which begins to color every decision he makes, both good and bad. Once a scholar, his junior year of high school was a disaster. If he doesn’t start working to his potential, college will be questionable at best. He was a track star until he stopped going to practices, prompting the coach to threaten to cut him from the team if he doesn’t get his head straight soon. When tragedy strikes again, Nathan will have to sink or swim in the life he has instead of the life he wants. It is hard to believe that The Essence of Nathan Biddle is J. William Lewis’ debut novel. It is a beautiful work of fiction with characters that come alive on the pages. From the first pages, the reader is invested in the characters and enthralled with the plot. This is one of those books that keeps you thinking of it long after the last pages are read. I highly recommend it and cannot wait to read the next book written by this author. DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for a fair and honest review.Review coming soon!

  18. 4 out of 5

    EllenZReads

    Thanks to NetGalley and Green Leaf Press for a free e-book in exchange for an honest review. The Essence of Nathan Biddle has garnered some comparisons to J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, and at first glance it has numerous similarities--Kit Biddle is a teenage boy growing up in the 1950s, struggling with philosophical questions, underachieving in his studies, worrying about girls, and dealing with family issues. But The Essence of Nathan Biddle takes the obvious story of teenage angst and lus Thanks to NetGalley and Green Leaf Press for a free e-book in exchange for an honest review. The Essence of Nathan Biddle has garnered some comparisons to J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, and at first glance it has numerous similarities--Kit Biddle is a teenage boy growing up in the 1950s, struggling with philosophical questions, underachieving in his studies, worrying about girls, and dealing with family issues. But The Essence of Nathan Biddle takes the obvious story of teenage angst and lust and tilts it on its head, so that at points in the novel it is hard to know what is real and what is only taking place in Kit's mind. Kit is also (in my opinion) a more likeable and sympathetic character than the infamous Holden Caulfield. And the history about his family members was interesting and helped me understand his upbringing. There were a few places where the story goes back and forth in time around Nathan's death and at times I thought it was a bit confusing because there wasn't enough separation between scenes, for example, when Kit goes to bed after a rough Saturday night...and wakes up some time later in the hospital, with no chapter break or indication of what happened. Later in the book, as Kit recounts things to a psychiatrist, the sequence of events is revealed. I found debut novelist J. William Lewis' writing to be evocative of small town life for a troubled teenager in the 1950s.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Aimee Dars

    Thank you to @greenleafbookgr and @tlcbooktours for having me on the tour for 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘕𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘉𝘪𝘥𝘥𝘭𝘦 by J. William Lewis and for the advanced reading copy. About to begin his senior year, Kit Biddle is intelligent and insightful but unwilling to “get with the program.” He’s one of the better students at his private high school and is a star of the track team, but he’d rather spend time with his girlfriend than go to class or attend practice. And if not with Anna, Kit and his best friend Edd Thank you to @greenleafbookgr and @tlcbooktours for having me on the tour for 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘕𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘉𝘪𝘥𝘥𝘭𝘦 by J. William Lewis and for the advanced reading copy. About to begin his senior year, Kit Biddle is intelligent and insightful but unwilling to “get with the program.” He’s one of the better students at his private high school and is a star of the track team, but he’d rather spend time with his girlfriend than go to class or attend practice. And if not with Anna, Kit and his best friend Eddie Lichtman ponder the meaning of life. No answers satisfy Kit, perhaps because of the series of tragedies that has befallen his family, most recently at the hand of his Uncle Nat who claimed he was following God’s orders. When Anna breaks up with him, Kit spirals downward until a reckless act of self-destruction forces him to reevaluate his sense of self. Set in 1950s Alabama, Kit’s coming-of-age story is a beautifully written and thoughtful meditation on the angsty teen years with a precocious and sympathetic—if sometimes frustrating—main character. I thought some of the interesting philosophical questions related to creating idealized others. I adored and was broken-hearted by a subplot regarding Abner and Phoenix Cook, Black brothers who begin following the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr., after a family tragedy of their own. Fans of Southern Literature and coming of age stories will want to check out 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘕𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘉𝘪𝘥𝘥𝘭𝘦.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Judy & Marianne from Long and Short Reviews

    Angst on overdrive. This is the story of a young man of eighteen, but is geared more toward adult readers. It’s written in beautiful prose and is complicated. Kit is the essential brooding young man. He’s angsty to the hundredth degree. He analyzes and overanalyzes things to death. While this might be a turn off to some readers, it’s rather close to what average young men do–especially sensitive ones. In that respect, Kit is very true to life. That said, I wanted to empathize with Kit. I did. I wan Angst on overdrive. This is the story of a young man of eighteen, but is geared more toward adult readers. It’s written in beautiful prose and is complicated. Kit is the essential brooding young man. He’s angsty to the hundredth degree. He analyzes and overanalyzes things to death. While this might be a turn off to some readers, it’s rather close to what average young men do–especially sensitive ones. In that respect, Kit is very true to life. That said, I wanted to empathize with Kit. I did. I wanted to so much, but sometimes the brooding and angst got to be too much. Then there’s the plot. Honestly, it goes all over the place at a hundred miles an hour. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. What it does do, though, is make this a book one needs to read slowly and carefully or you’ll miss things. The plot twists come thick and fast, so beware. If you’re in the mood for a complicated book that will stick with you after the last page, then this is the book for you. It might take some time, but it just might be exactly the book you’re looking for.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tam

    Although clever, imaginative and very well-written, the story line just didn't seem to capture and keep my attention. Kit was an interesting and complex character to be sure, but a bit too "all over the place" for me to get firmly rooted in. He had too much going on. It felt like a remote control was constantly changing his channels and, just as I started to get really tuned in to the current program, the channel would change again, and Kit would be off like a shot and down the next rabbit hole. Although clever, imaginative and very well-written, the story line just didn't seem to capture and keep my attention. Kit was an interesting and complex character to be sure, but a bit too "all over the place" for me to get firmly rooted in. He had too much going on. It felt like a remote control was constantly changing his channels and, just as I started to get really tuned in to the current program, the channel would change again, and Kit would be off like a shot and down the next rabbit hole. However, I will say that some aspects and behaviors of mental illness were quite brilliantly portrayed in a more understandable and identifiable context for those on the outside looking in. *I received a complimentary ARC of this book in order to read and provide a voluntary, unbiased and honest review, should I choose to do so.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    What I liked was the wording. It was very deep, well chosen words. There were a few times that I made some note hi-lites just to remember how eloquently written it was. I can appreciated a well written, thoughtful book. That said ... it missed the mark some of the time. Overall it was just ok Usually I love a good coming-of-age tale. I couldn't love Kit. I didn't feel the angst or the teen type of pressures. I wanted the darkness of Uncle Nat to be different. I would have liked to have something What I liked was the wording. It was very deep, well chosen words. There were a few times that I made some note hi-lites just to remember how eloquently written it was. I can appreciated a well written, thoughtful book. That said ... it missed the mark some of the time. Overall it was just ok Usually I love a good coming-of-age tale. I couldn't love Kit. I didn't feel the angst or the teen type of pressures. I wanted the darkness of Uncle Nat to be different. I would have liked to have something to sink my teeth in but I couldn't find it. I don't have much time to ponder the meanings of a lot of things.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Konet

    This was a strange story and I was not sure how to feel after completing it. Were Kit and Nathan the same person after a mental breakdown? The characterization of Nathan and Kit was good but the story was a little lost on me and I found myself not caring, which is never good. Loved the cover. Just an ok book to me. Thanks to Netgalley, J WIlliam Lewis and Greenlead Book Group Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Available: 6/1/21

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    I received this book as part of LibraryThing’s early reviewer program. The Essence of Nathan Biddle was a pretty interesting read. It had some good ideas and was well written. I can’t say I agree with Kits ideas but he had a unique voice. But I thought it was a little long and meandered too far at times.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Another Catcher in the Rye? Far from it. A long story filled with teenage angst, conflict, confusion and little else. I wasted far too much time reading this book that I'll never get back. I am filled with disappointment and regret. My thanks to Net Galley and Green Leaf Book Group for giving me the opportunity to read this novel. All opinions and regrets in this review are my own. Another Catcher in the Rye? Far from it. A long story filled with teenage angst, conflict, confusion and little else. I wasted far too much time reading this book that I'll never get back. I am filled with disappointment and regret. My thanks to Net Galley and Green Leaf Book Group for giving me the opportunity to read this novel. All opinions and regrets in this review are my own.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book is very well written, but there are so many tangential thoughts, that it’s easy to lose focus and interest. I never found a connection to Kit, but enjoyed his journey of self discovery enough to stick with him. If you can make it through the first half of the book, the last half makes it worth it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Linda Quinn

    This coming of age story examines the existential angst of Kit Biddle, a rising senior who is still trying to cope with the death of his father and the murder of his cousin. Somewhat dark but also at times humorous, the Essence of Nathan Biddle is a pretty good look at the troubled mind of a boy who has lived through multiple tragedies.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Protagonist Kit Biddle is a young man, highly intelligent but "lost" as he tried to navigate his life and make sense of his existence. He is poignant, confused, funny and completely loveable. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Protagonist Kit Biddle is a young man, highly intelligent but "lost" as he tried to navigate his life and make sense of his existence. He is poignant, confused, funny and completely loveable.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marcia Mazuryk

    Thought provoking I enjoyed this novel greatly. It was a quick read because the story is so absorbing. Be prepared, it's far from a happy - go - lucky story but rather introspective. I actually felt twinges of the feelings the main character experienced. Thought provoking I enjoyed this novel greatly. It was a quick read because the story is so absorbing. Be prepared, it's far from a happy - go - lucky story but rather introspective. I actually felt twinges of the feelings the main character experienced.

  30. 5 out of 5

    LeeAnn

    This book was a lot. I wish I taught a college literature course. This would be perfect for a university reading and discussion. So much literary allusion, philosophy, and religious references. But was this a fun book to read? Definitely not.

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