Sunday, February 3, 2013

Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See

Full disclosure: I have the pleasure of knowing Juliann Garey, but that in no way prepared me for how good her book, Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See would be (also, an amazing title!).

I’m including it here on my blog as a great example of how to do flashback and weaving timelines—both things can make you want to bonk your head against the wall repeatedly, so it’s risky to write, but Juliann is so smart about how she does it. First, she can do vivid, economic writing—it delivers the emotional punch and leaves you wanting more, whether the scene is in the present, the past, or the long-dead past. I never felt like the backstory clashed with the frontstory for attention.

Second, she opens in the right place—which is, of all places, an electroshock therapy or ECT center. The main character, Greyson, who has bipolar disorder type 1, is finally getting some life-changing treatment—but at a cost. Each of 12 chapters represents one 30-second shock to the brain and the memories that are thereby lost—up until the final chapter, Aftershocks, in which Greyson reconnects to the world without his past. It’s a great point of attack—I think the usual and expected approach would have been to show the journey of the amnesiac mental patient searching for his memories and putting together all the pieces. The fact that she worked it in the opposite direction not only made it a more high-stakes “chase”, but didn’t privilege the destination over the journey, the present over the past. 

Oh, yeah, and you should definitely read it—you can find it here.

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