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Numb: A Novel by Sean Ferrell
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Numb: A Novel (2010)

by Sean Ferrell

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Sean Ferrell grabs you by the collar and forces you to feel the physical, psychological, and emotional pain that Numb is unable or unwilling to feel. He jars you with the bizarre, distracts you with pretty women, and while you’re looking the other way, pounds nails into your heart. Unlike Numb, you feel each swing of the hammer. It’s like Palahniuk meets Steinbeck in a lion cage. They sit, have coffee, and play chicken with a pairing knife. You are wondering who is going to lose a finger and if the other will sew it back on. The read is refreshing and real, and I can honestly say I can’t wait for his next book. ( )
  imaginationzombie | Sep 28, 2014 |
Numb is a man who feels no pain and doesn’t remember where he came from or anything about his past. His only link to his personal history is a bloody business card he finds in his pocket. After performing with a circus and befriending fellow performer, Mal, the two travel to New York together. Numb’s journey to understanding himself is full of people who appear to want to help but just might have other motives for befriending him. Will Numb be able to make sense of the intentions of the people he encounters?

Wonderfully written…brilliant! Numb is a captivating novel! Readers will fall in love with Numb from the start and root for him until the end. Numb is a character that won’t easily be forgotten. ( )
  taravanh | Nov 10, 2012 |
As originally posted on my website spittingvenomreviews.com

When I received this book I had really high hopes for it. With the exception of the guy joining a circus (seemed a little cliche to me), the story of a man who can’t feel pain, has some sort of amnesia, and does stunts for money while searching for his identity, sounds pretty intriguing. Unfortunately the title of this, the first novel by author Sean Ferrell, is entirely too appropriate. For most of the read I found it rather dull.

Told in first person we hear Numb’s (yes that’s his name too; given to him by his fellow circus freaks) account of his struggle to find his identity, after waking up in a business suit outside of a circus in the middle of nowhere. Except there was no struggle. Much like his ailment, Numb spends most of the book completely apathetic to his situation. He wants to find himself, but doesn’t really take accountability on his own to get there. Instead he continually lets others guide him and his decisions. Listening to a guy not really care much about anything, even as he’s being put in sort of shocking situations, does NOT make for an engaging nor intriguing nor inspiring read. It makes one want to take a nap. Or put the book on the dreaded “Could Not Finish” pile.

The entire novel is a rather large and all too blatant attempt at metaphor for being a cubicle drone; stuck in the daily grind, going through the motions, not in control of your situation, put through hell, yet being completely numb to it all. Anyone who’s worked in corporate America for some time can likely relate (I know I certainly do) to how you just sort of wake up one morning in your business attire, tired and devoid of emotion, but asking yourself: “What the hell happened and how did I get here? I don’t think this is what I had planned in life, but I’m not completely sure.” Many continue to go through the motions as Numb does, but most take some sort of emblazoned action. They get fired up and passionate about finding a cure to their apathy, regaining their life and their identity, and they don’t continue to let others guide them towards some destination.

There is another failed metaphorical attempt in this book that irked me as well. The descriptions of the stunts that Numb performed – like nailing himself to a bar – were severely lacking in detail. If the scenarios were meant to draw a contrast between the horrible things that were happening to him and the pain he SHOULD be feeling in relation to his lack of it; it was poorly done. Rather than describing where a nail was put, and noting that it tugged on the skin a bit, I really would have liked to see – as disturbing as they might be, mostly BECAUSE they would be disturbing, and really drive the point home, pardon the pun – details like what condition the edges of the skin were in. How much bruising was there? Did blood squirt out? How much blood was there? Did the force of the nail make his body reel? What did his hands, feet, or shoulders look like from the other side? Were there wood splinters in the wounds? If I was supposed to be shocked into realizing how much pain we endure or see and turn a blind eye to, I wasn’t shocked, because it wasn’t very descriptive.

I don’t want to shred anyone. The feat of actually getting a book written let alone published is monumental and should be commended. This was however, not one of the better first novels I’ve read. Ferrell is a pretty decent writer and I think the man has potential (I read a prize winning short story he wrote: “Building an Elephant” which was quite good) but this story would have been better told in third person for starters. Having an enthusiastic narrator describe how shocked they were at Numb’s apathy to all the holy fuck ouch things being done, would have helped immensely. Though many, many experts tell first time authors to trim a lot of over the top detail, the story and the theme of this book would have also been better served with graphic detail. Decent effort, but unfortunately not a read I could recommend. Unless you’re suffering from insomnia. ( )
  SpittingVenomReviews | Sep 25, 2010 |
When a bloodied stranger with no memory of who he is or how he got there wanders into Mr. Tilly’s Circus in south Texas, the only thing the battered and confused man can think to tell the curious workers who surround him is, “I’m numb.” Though he means it literally, that proclamation also comes to be his name.

Numb’s ability to absorb physical punishment without feeling the resulting pain makes for a highly successful circus act, one that finds him pounding nails through his hands and feet, making creative use of a staple gun, and acting as a human dart board for members of the crowd.

Yet it’s only when he finds himself thrust into a wrestling match with a lion that Numb finally realizes his future is going nowhere, in large part because he doesn’t know his past. And so, along with best friend and fellow circus performer Mal, Numb heads to New York City in search of his identity.

Once in New York Numb’s life changes dramatically, as what had previously made him a freak and outcast in the circus garners him popularity and fame in the big city. Be it doing television commercials, magazine cover photo shoots, or even appearing on Letterman, Numb’s problems appear to be over. And that’s when author Ferrell pulls a brilliant slight of hand, taking what initially appeared to be on the surface a straightforward “Hey, look at the freak!” story and downshifting into a much more serious gear.

Through his interactions with those he meets in NYC (his agent, who may or may not have Numb’s best interests at heart; an ambitious, and slightly psychotic, model he meets on a photo shoot; the beautiful – and blind – artist who appears to be the only one to “see” him for who he truly is) Numb comes to understand the necessity of pain; its role as the counterpoint to pleasure. Despite all his apparent success, Numb realizes he’s stuck in a limbo world of sorts, wondering if he’ll ever really be able to feel joy if he doesn’t know what it is to experience pain.

Numb is a clever, offbeat tale of a man searching – both literally and spiritually – for the answer to the ultimate question: who am I? I’ll leave it to you to discover whether Sean Ferrell allows Numb to figure out the answer to that age-old question, but I will tell you that Ferrell sure as hell has served up a book that makes you think about how we define ourselves. Is it by what’s inside, or by what is reflected back to us by others? And when an author has the chops to both entertain readers as well as make them think, that’s beautiful thing. ( )
  AllPurposeMonkey | Sep 22, 2010 |
A lot stuffed in a small package. Don't let the page count fool you, this book will make you think - and feel - like you read a substantial tome.

The story seems simple enough, an amnesiac who feels no pain searches for his identity, literally and spiritually. In a sense, it is the story of us all. Forget the part about the amnesia, memory or not, searching for ourselves, understanding who we are, defining our place in life and amongst society is a timeless and ageless theme.

Ferrell gives it a new face and twist in this intriguing story meant to leave you wondering about what really matters: in terms of who we are and how we live our lives, how important is it really to know where we came from or who we might be.

Doesn't it matter more to simply be in the moment so we can see, and enjoy, what is right in front of us every moment of every day. ( )
  jcmontgomery | Sep 14, 2010 |
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Mal resembled nothing else as much as a poorly gathered scarecrow. Over six feet tall, with kinky reddish blond hair and three days of beard, he wore a cheap plaid dress shirt, very old jeans, and no shoes or socks.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061946508, Paperback)

Early one morning‚ after a sandstorm had ripped through north Texas‚ I wandered into Mr. Tilly's circus. I wore a black suit and blood ran down my face. When some of the carnies came up to me, I said, "I'm numb." This became my name.

A man with no memory who feels no pain, Numb travels to New York City after a short stint with the circus, following the one and only clue he holds to his hidden history: a brittle, bloodstained business card. But once there, word of his condition rapidly spreads—sparked by the attention he attracts by letting people nail his hands to wooden bars for money—and he quickly finds himself hounded on all sides by those who would use his unique ability in their own pursuits of fame and fortune. It is a strange world indeed that Numb numbly stumbles through, surrounded by crowds of suck-ups and opportunists, as he confronts life's most basic and difficult question: Who am I?

Sean Ferrell's Numb is a wildly entertaining examination of identity, friendship, pain, and the cult of celebrity that heralds the arrival of a fresh and uniquely inventive literary voice.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:06 -0400)

An amnesiac joins a Texas circus where his inability to feel pain makes him a big-top hit and earns him the name Numb. After a haunting experience wrestling a lion, Numb and his best friend, Mal, give up the circus for life in New York, where they live in a crappy hotel and make a living as a lowrent one-man freak show.… (more)

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