Saturday, February 15, 2014


Claustrophobia is a funny thing.  One moment, I can be happily soaking in the tub, and the next, I begin thinking about death...and coffins...and being buried...while I'm still alive.  Then, I start thinking about being in prison, where there is no freedom, where I cannot go where I please. I even think about being locked (usually by accident) in a room and not being able to get out.

Yeah, it's a funny thing.  But when I start to think about other things (like taking deep breaths, or picking up a book), the feeling goes away and I'm once more able to go on with my life.  Claustrophobia can appear unbidden, even when one is standing in an open field.

So, it's rather hard to for me to read stories about people locked away against their will.  It's bad enough that I learn about real-life incidents from the news.  But the captive has escaped (which makes me joyful) and I know that person will write a book about her experiences...but I really don't want to read it.  

As I said, claustrophobia is a funny thing.  

'Gerald's Game' by Stephen King was a hard story for me to read.  Imagine participating in a sex game with your partner; you're handcuffed to the headboard...and your partner suddenly dies.  And there you are.  No water, no food, no telephone.  I read the book one time, and I'll never read it again.

Then came 'Room' by the always brilliant Emma Donoghue.  A woman captured and held against her will. She has a child, and the story is told through his eyes.  Such innocence did not comfort me.  

Placing the reader inside the skin of the major protagonist is the mark of a talented storyteller; you feel the pain, the joy. You take each step with them, no matter how hard it is for you the breathe.

And the newest hard-to-breathe book is 'Above' by Isla Morley, whose previous novel, 'Come Sunday', left a huge impression on me.  Morley is a stunning talent, and her well-drawn characters will leave their marks upon you (I. See. A. Movie.).  I was so mesmerized that I couldn't put down the book.

'Above' is the story of Blythe Hallowell, a teenager living in Kansas, who is abducted and forced to live in a silo.  Her abductor tells her that the world is coming to an end, and he wants to protect her.  Left without her family (and always hoping that they will find her), she learns to adapt to her sterile surroundings, but retains her dreams of standing in the sun and clean air, and appreciating everything she once took for granted.  Her captor is a madman, and someone who lived in her town.  Someone who lurked in the corner of her life.  She tries to escape numerous times, but her captor is always a step ahead of her.  The years pass, but she still retains her resistance despite the crushing loneliness.  But when a child comes into her life, she is determined to do anything to give him the life above that he deserves.

I could go on, but I hate providing spoilers.  Let's just say that I was surprised, to say the least.  Like 'The Lovely Bones', this one will promote serious discussions among reading group members.

We'll let it go at that.  Read 'Above'...

...and be sure to breathe.

'Above', the brilliant new novel from Isla Morley, will be published in March 2014 by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.  You will be able to find it at independent bookstores and your local  library.    


WritingGoddess said...

Jacki, I am currently reading this one . . and I am mesmerized by it. Definitely not one of those to "just read one chapter before bed" because you will be there until dawn. I have trouble putting it down. Brilliant writing. Cannot wait to see where this one goes. BTW, had NO IDEA I was claustrophobic until I had an MRI. Wow. Not pleasant.

WritingGoddess said...

Have finished it and . . wow. I've read enough that it isn't easy to surprise me. This one did. Total left field for me. Thanks for the recommendation