Tuesday, May 23, 2017
A book I pray you'll never need
I think this is the most important book I will ever work on.
I don't say that lightly. I've worked on some books I'm very proud of; books that will make or have made a difference in people's lives.
But this is the book of my heart.
Some years back Deb Vlock queried me on a novel she'd written about a mom with an autistic son. One day, the mom snapped and left her son alone in a park. He's found the next day, terrified but not injured. The mom returns home three days later. The novel is about what happens after an unforgivable act.
I loved this book with all my heart but finding an audience was tricky. Deb and I worked on the book a lot- changing the title, adding and subtracting characters, digging deep into how to convey what it means to be overwhelmed and at the end of your rope, yet retain the audience's loyalty. What forgiveness means.
Over the course of three years we both poured sweat and blood into that novel. And of course, in that time we became friends. And I learned more about Deb's personal life. Like her protagonist, she too had a son on the spectrum. I met him. I fell in love. This lad is just amazing. Smart and funny. Engaging. And sweet. Oh my god, what a delight to be around. He found my heart and my heart never let go.
In addition to Asperger's, Deb's son suffers with severe mental health issues. One day, just as part of a casual conversation, Deb mentioned he'd first told her he wanted to end his life when he was four. He'd told her how he'd do it
I had to pause the conversation. I could not speak then upon hearing this. I wept then, as I do now, and as I do every time I've written about this. All these years later, just thinking about that wonderful boy in such pain that he wanted to die breaks my heart.
Clutching my barely regained composure, our conversation continued. Deb told me she was not alone.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among middle schoolers.
I'll wait for a moment while you think about that.
After accidents and illness, little children die most often by their own hand.
It dawned on us both that there was a non-fiction book here. A book for parents by a parent. Not a clinician, not an outsider, but a mom who had stood watch by night, making sure her son did not pad into the kitchen to find and use the knives.
It's been a long road. For Deb. For her son. For the proposal, for the book. We needed a complete story arc. When I tell you I was petrified of what one of those arcs might be, no doubt you can intuit what I mean.
But this story ends on a much better note. Deb's son just turned 17. He's doing very well.
And the proposal is too. In fact, it's not a proposal any more. It's going to be a book.
I believe this book will save lives.
I believe this book will comfort people in dire need of care and kindness and information.
I am very proud to have been a small part of Deb's family's journey.
I pray you do not need, nor will never need this book. But if you do, if you or your family are coping with the devastation of mental illness in children, this book will be for you.
You can reach out directly to Deb via her website here.