Back in the days before the Pandemic kicked in, when we still had places to go and things to do and people to see, I started writing a novel.
This is nothing new: I’ve been “starting to write a novel” every two or three years since I was in the fourth grade. For a variety of reasons I’ve never gotten very far past the “starting to” stage. This most recent episode looked to be of the usual pattern. As soon as the our movements, our face-to-face contacts, our activities outside the home, became so restricted my project seemed to die on the vine.
Baffling, right? Suddenly I’ve got no social life, no classes, no hanging out with friends – the ideal opportunity to settle into a long and solitary project in the comfort of my own home.
Instead, the book went on hiatus for the entire duration of the Pandemic-related disruptions, and only after the situation began to ease did I pick it up again.
Now, all this time later, it’s finished. All three hundred and sixty-nine pages of it.
“What’s the book about?” you ask?
If I had to summarize it, I would say that it’s about what happens to people when their entire self-image, their identity, is based on outside influences. Friends, family, career, community… All of these things can define a person. But suppose those things change? Suppose those relationships become damaged or simply evolve, leaving us behind? Do we change along with them? Or do we find ourselves stranded, orphaned, clinging to the tatters of our familiar selves while the forces that created and sustained those selves move on? This is the kind of situation that feeds political fringe movements, or religious cults, or behavioral disorders like hoarding or rage, as people search desperately for new sources of identity, new fathers/mothers/lovers/messiahs/drugs to keep the hollow bubble of “me” inflated.
In The Bone Doll, a small group of people follow a charismatic and manipulative elderly philosopher on a trek across Mexico and Central America, running from a vague threat that only the Teacher can define. Some of the group are blue-collar, working-class, the people we stereotype as susceptible to that sort of influence, but others include lawyers, the wealthy heir to an oil empire, and a successful accountant from a happy, well-adjusted background. They all find themselves in need, adrift and undefined, due to individual personal conflicts, and the Teacher offers them original and intellectually challenging solutions. As the journey goes on, tensions arise as the individual members of the group begin to find new identities for themselves, built out of crisis, and one by one the travelers drop away, moving onto their own new paths.
The book is not an action-packed thriller – let me be clear on that up front. There is action, but it’s peripheral, not the point of the narrative. Instead the book is about the people and places involved, with the story woven from multiple threads encompassing both past and present.
Anyway, it now exists. It is a thing unto itself, and can speak for itself better than I can speak for it.
If you’d like to get a copy, it is available on Amazon in Kindle format, paperback, and hardcover. It is also available in alternative ebook formats for readers such as Nook or iPad through Smashwords.
It will become available through Barnes&Noble (online, ebook format) at some point over the next few weeks. It is available as of now on Barnes&Noble. The links are below.
Check it out, tell me what you think. Please provide reviews if you can.
The Bone Doll, by yours truly, David Lee Holcomb.