As have so many good things since I started blogging, this book came to my attention through a world-wide web with Holly Jahangiri in the center.
Holly posted about plot bunnies. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt commented about writing prompts. I commented that I provided daily writing prompts on my blog. Alicia visited my blog and left some thoughtful, generous comments. I read one of her free short stories, got hooked, and bought this book.
How to characterize Purgatory: Book One of the Pride’s Children trilogy?
It’s centrally concerned with the interior lives of the main characters rather than with the activities going on around them, except as those activities impact their interior lives. (Things happen, it’s just that how those happenings affect the people is more important than the happenings themselves.)
So it’s Literary?
Specifically, the interior interplay between the characters focuses on various forms, abuses, amounts or lack of amounts, surrender to or denial of love and the power of love.
So it’s Romance?
The main character copes with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, one of those “invisible” illnesses that get people vilified by mouthy and judgmental people for using handicapped parking spaces when they don’t have an obvious limp.
But it isn’t Disability Porn.
What it is, is exactly what I want in a book, whether it’s genre (science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance) or not: It’s immersion in other lives, other personalities, other realities. At 474 pages, I had plenty of time to indulge myself – except that I stayed up late and ignored my work and read and read and read.
Sometimes – rarely – I have no earthly idea why one of Ehrhardt’s characters has a particular reaction or says a particular thing. Sometimes I catch on later, sometimes I don’t. Either way, I read on. Because I don’t have to “get” everything every time. Because I’m trespassing and eavesdropping on another psyche, and it feels natural that I wouldn’t invariably understand.
These characters, you see, aren’t one-dimensional, they’re four-dimensional: They’re full-bodied and they exist in time. Like real people you meet in real life, they have histories, and they’re made up of all the people they’ve ever been and all the people they could possibly become. They’re the people they seem to be to others, the people they seem to be to themselves, the people they wish they were, the people they’re afraid they are, and the simmering stew of people-stuff that they actually are.
What happens in the book?
A movie gets made on location in New Hampshire. The life of a best-selling writer with CFS and a retreat near the location intersects with the lives of the film folk. There are various family and professional crises or near-crises. Nothing is overheated. It’s a sous vide book: everything is held at the optimum temperature, the heat of the living heart.
I honestly don’t know how to explain the grip this book had on me from the first. I couldn’t stop reading it, and I wanted it never to end. I’ve read other books that affected me this way, but the authors always hurt the spell by tossing a plot bomb in through the window. Ehrhardt may do that before the trilogy is over, but she doesn’t do it in this book. The climax and ending are just as they should be: strong, natural, and satisfactory.
She says that books 2 and 3 are finished in rough draft. I paid (I! Paid!) actual cash money for Book 1. You’d better believe I’m buying 2 and 3, as well.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Your character becomes obsessed with something or someone.
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