Jersey City author Tim Hall has admitted that he invented many of the key scenes and characters in Half Empty, his acclaimed first novel about early sobriety, romantic obsession, and domestic horror.
“Half Empty has always been called a novel, and listed as fiction,” the author said in response. “Although I tried hard to make the story as truthful and realistic as possible, I never expected this kind of reaction.”
Hall made the revelations public after a number of readers responded that they were deeply moved by the short novel, and felt that the story was real enough that it could have happened. “I’ve been through a situation almost exactly like the one Tim Hall describes in Half Empty,” one reader said in an email to the publisher. “The book perfectly captures the heartache of romantic obsession and the confusing, conflicted emotions of early sobriety, without resorting to cheap tricks or tearjerker nonsense. How can you claim this is fiction? How could anybody pretend this isn’t the truth?”
A spokesman for the book’s publisher, Undie Press, said the company stands behind the author. “It was never Tim’s intention to mislead anybody,” the statement read in part. “The book is clearly labeled fiction, and we are sorry if people have been so moved by the quality of the narrative that they have come to believe it is true.”
The author also stands by his work. “I became a novelist because I am interested in exploring the truth,” Hall says. “If I wanted to lie to readers, I’d write a memoir.”
Reviewers have noted the evenhanded, dry tone that might be partly responsible for reader confusion: “Even in the book’s darkest quarters, Hall underscores the humor in his characters’ desperation,” wrote Emerson Dameron for Zine World magazine. “All the while, his writing snaps like a fallen power line. Born ranters can sometimes pull off enviable fiction.”
Reviewer Heath Row, meanwhile, located in the same Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborhood described in Half Empty, had a more blunt take, calling it “an awesome local novel” on his Media Diet website.
But at least one reviewer sided with those who felt the book was more truth than fictional: Kirkus Discoveries complained about the characters in particular, saying, “If anything they’re too believable.”
Mary Hall, Undie Press publisher and co-founder, urged readers to make up their own minds. “If readers approach Half Empty with the right spirit of openness and suspended disbelief, they will be able to enjoy the story without worrying that their own most painful personal experiences and feelings have been somehow recorded by the author. They should read Half Empty for what it is: a simply great novel.”