Thoughts About Writing & Reading: There Are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes
Author Guest Post
It’s coming up on the one-year anniversary of publication of my debut novel There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes. I wanted to share some thoughts about what it’s meant to me:
Few of us can imagine the anguish that precedes a suicide attempt and the wreckage involved in recovering from a failed suicide attempt. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people (15- to 24-year-olds) and the second-leading cause of death in college-age students. Suicide attempts occur up to 20 times more frequently than completed suicides. Suicide is the ultimate loss of self (the ultimate self-cancellation of self).
But who can speak for the suicide survivor? Only a suicide survivor.
I wrote my novel There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes from the perspective of a young man (19-year-old Richard Issych) suffering with undiagnosed clinical depression. Richard is a suicide survivor, and the novel begins with his “second birth”; that is, he wakes up in the inpatient unit from his failed attempt at killing himself: “Void, and he in its midst, rising, consciousness materializing, blank black blanketing him, warm, so he understood he was alive, failed to kill himself.”
His distress is like that of a newborn thrust violently into a world he didn’t ask to be brought into: he cannot communicate, light hurts, the world looks and feels foreign and frightening.
The novel is written in the close third person point of view, through Richard’s eyes. I tried writing from different points of view, like the father and the mother. There was a scene between them, at their home, that I started early on in the writing of the book, but I soon dropped it because it was opening up the world beyond Richard. And I felt the story had to remain in his confused, claustrophobic new world in the institution.
I also tried writing from the third person omniscient view. With this view I could dip into any character’s mind to offer up their thoughts or feelings. I wrote this view in several scenes—up to the scene with Richard sitting at the table with all the young residents—but gave up because I felt the story unraveling and becoming cumbersome and, again, losing its focus. The omniscient point of view is supposed to be the most freeing for a writer, but, with this novel, I found it suffocating. And frustrating.
I had to go back and smooth everything out. I felt that it had to be about Richard only. My gut was telling me that the story had to come back to him and his foggy, limited, disjointed, and sometimes stunted worldview and follow his effort to put back together the self he had longed to destroy. So that’s what I did.
My experience with the novel was one of discovery. I was discovering elements of the story as I was writing it, I was discovering Richard as I was writing him, and it felt like I was seeing unknown parts in myself, too. I hope, as you’re reading the novel, you’ll be able to discover something of your own journey inside Richard’s journey, re-discover your own timeless truths, and clarify your own needed reasons for being.
People have told me the novel is a difficult read, not only for the writing style but also for the subject matter. I wanted the writing style to flow naturally out of, and because of, the subject matter. So I’d suggest reading the book from Richard’s point of view. I know this will be challenging for most people, because most people have no experience with major depression that leads to suicide. But this is partly why we read fiction, isn’t it? We read fiction to discover and experience someone else’s life and, perhaps, along the way, to come to some new understanding of our own life and our own place in the world.
So, read the novel as if you are Richard, and let the words on the page become the words in your mind become the experience for you become you as it is happening. If you can experience Richard’s story in this way, you will have a glimpse into the mind of a young person working his way back from the brink of self-destruction. And a glimpse may work its way into understanding, or even sympathy or empathy.
4/5 Star Review of This Book: Here
Note: This giveaway will be mailed by the author. Robert is giving away one (1) signed paperback copy of There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes to a lucky winner in the USA or Canada. Winner will be chosen November 8th.