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Richard Voigt
My Name on a Grain of Rice

Harry Travers walks away from the manicured future his disintegrating, moneyed family had envisioned for him so that he could feel the rush of making something out of nothing. That something would be himself. 

After quitting his job with a software startup, Harry stumbles into working on a construction site - a dangerous environment in which he has no natural instincts.  As he becomes blinded by the flash of his own intensity, he exposes others to tragedy.  He also becomes involved with Minnie Sollis, an unadorned, self-propelled woman who demands serious things of him. He learns how vulnerability can make love possible.  

My Name on a Grain of Rice by Richard Voigt is a story grounded in the complexities of emotional uncertainty, personal definition, and physical fear.

Intriguing characters and soul-searching journeys distinguish this debut offering from Voigt. Harry Travers, son of wealthy parents who buy fake chateaus for investment purposes, longs to break free from his family’s opulent country club lifestyle, to “feel the rush that comes from making something out of nothing.” When Travers decides to quit his steady job at a software startup and sign on to become an apprentice piledriver for a construction company, trouble starts to knock on his door. What follows is a transformation of self-discovery, replete with physical dangers, emotional uncertainty, and one man’s desperate search for meaning.

Voigt intricately details his characters around Travers’s point of view, one momentary impression at a time–and those characters are truly memorable, with beguiling oddities that will resonate with readers. Throughout the story, Travers attempts to defy others’ expectations of him, first and foremost his parents, who want him to live a life similar—if not the same—to their own. When Travers, in his father’s eyes, throws away a guaranteed future to chase after deeper meaning, he “might as well put [his] name on a grain of rice.” Despite his detractors’ disappointment in the seeming insignificance of Travers’s pursuits, he remains dogged in his quest for purpose.

Some of Voigt’s prose edges toward the self-conscious, though Travers is impressively aware of his own flaws as he analyzes his unconventional choices: in trying to walk the line between his wealthy upbringing and his search for meaning, Travers can go overboard to prove his normalcy. Suspense arises from accounts of construction work on a mismanaged project, described with persuasive clarity (at times at length) and drawing upon Voigt’s work as an attorney focused on workplace litigation–this is fiction that’s not afraid to get its hands dirty. Lovers of personal growth stories will enjoy this novel, which is as entertaining as it is introspective.

Takeaway: The intriguing story of one man’s attempt to break out of his rich family’s mold and find his own meaning in life and work.

Great for fans of: Richard Ford, Larry Brown.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A