I recently had the opportunity to read and review Robert Jacoby’s novel, There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes. You can see the review here. I would like to share with you the second part of my exploration into this novel with a guest post from the author Robert Jacoby. I would like to thank Robert for this post and the upcoming interview and book giveaway.
How a Novel Can Jump-Start a Conversation
By: Robert Jacoby
In the U.S., last month was Mental Health Awareness Month. Last week, on June 3, President Obama opened the National Conference on Mental Health. Its stated purpose was to start a national conversation about mental illness. The government even launched a new website, mentalhealth.gov [link to http://www.mentalhealth.gov].
Still, for all the “advocacy” and “awareness” and “facts” that are out there, it seems that mental health issues still very much carry a stigma among friends, family, and colleagues. Tell someone you’re feeling feverish and chilled, and they’ll be happy to recommend any number of remedies (get some rest, drink plenty of fluids, see your doctor, etc.). Tell someone you’re feeling “down” or “out of sorts”….can you?
It’s not much of a conversation.
Part of the problem may be lack of empathy. Many people genuinely struggle to imagine experiences they do not have, or what others are feeling and thinking. If all you have is yourself as a yardstick, your worldview is your “comfort zone,” and it can tend to be limited.
Reading fiction (literature) can help expand a person’s range of experiences. It does this by allowing us to explore human experiences we might never have. And it can deepen our appreciation and understanding of human experiences and, thus, of what it means to be human.
I wrote my novel, There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes, [link to http://www.amazon.com/There-Reasons-Noah-Packed-Clothes/dp/0983969701] in part, to give people an experience they very likely will never have and most probably never thought possible. It’s the story of 19-year-old Richard Issych, who wakes up in an inpatient unit after a failed suicide attempt. The novel follows Richard on his journey over several weeks’ time as he tries to find his way to a place where he wants to live. Along his way he encounters new friends and foes, and re-encounters his family.
The novel tackles serious issues and explores extraordinarily raw emotions in a fictional setting. I wrote it through Richard’s eyes and mind so that I’d be able to focus entirely and intensely on his experiences. In certain parts of the novel I use stream of consciousness and poetic elements to convey Richard’s anguish, confusion, and (yes) wonderment at life and the world around him. I wrote it so that readers could experience something they might otherwise never experience (never want to experience): what it feels like to be a suicide survivor.
Nothing is sugarcoated, nothing is hidden. There are no neat, packaged endings. Life is too complex for that. You’ll need to figure it out on your own, as you go along. It’s what we all do, what each of us must do. I hope my novel can deepen your life experience and prompt real conversations with a friend, a family member, or a colleague.
“Is this how it feels?”
A simple question may be all that it takes.
“No. I mean it: how are you really feeling?”
Author’s homepage: http://robert-jacoby.com/
Author’s Goodreads page, blog, and book reviews: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14571.Robert_Jacoby
Contact the author for interviews, book club events, appearances, etc. at robert-jacoby.com [link to www.robert-jacoby.com].