“Mental,” a tongue-in-cheek title, is an 85,000 word literary fiction novel about the idea of self-transformation through suffering. On the surface, this novel is about identical twin writers, Lilly and Eve, as Eve finishes college early to teach high school English. Eve then experiences a nervous breakdown of seemingly unknown origins. Lilly, the primary narrator, sneaks reads in Eve’s journal, trying to figure out which event(s) have caused the nervous breakdown. “I’ve started having these absolutely terrifying nightmares about my father…there’s something on the tip of my tongue but I can’t remember it, you know, that’s making me feel so out of sorts,” Eve says at this time. Eve recounts her current life experiences after quitting her perfect teaching position as a secondary narrator, once she is diagnosed with a mental illness and becomes determined to understand its cause. “Mental” is set in Spring, Austin and Galveston, Texas.
This novel is full of lyrical turns of phrase, a rhyming and metered poem, and a novel-within-the-novel. It is about Eve’s earnestness to live life to the fullest, and the protective tricks of the mind that save her from the pain of her incest experiences until she is finally ready to accept the truth of what happened to her before she left home for college. It is about her realization of her kinship with the homeless people around her, And Eve finds a sort of Zen response to the truths she is finally ready to accept, which frees her at last to get on with her adult life. “[If] I want to enjoy life…It means, I am pretty sure, that I have to give up [thinking] life is only good when it conforms to preconceived ideas about situations, people and events,” Eve realizes at the end of “Mental.” This is a positive novel–none of Eve’s recovered memories of her incest experience are told graphically or distastefully. Eve realizes that no matter what happened to her, her capacity to love hasn’t been broken like she had feared; and, that she is finally ready to accept the challenges of being an adult. The novel ends with an unforgettable scene–Eve gets lasting advice from an old hippie about how to create a happy life, after this wise soul shows Eve how to avoid an obstacle in the Guadalupe river.
My first novel, “Leaves Subsiding (2010),” was published under pen name M. Yoshida McCurry–it is about the painful process of growing up. I have a website, www.MarieKJohnston.com, where I showcase “Leaves Subsiding,” “Mental,” and my poetry.
Thank you in advance for your consideration!
Best to you,
Marie K Johnston