Lost Boys Press, the house built for stories, recognizes and honors their fellow independent publishers and the stories that fill the world with a sense of wonder. Lost Boys love stories; it was Mrs. Darling’s bedtime tales that brought Peter Pan to Wendy, and it was the promise of stories that brought Wendy to the Lost Boys. This post and others that follow will share Lost Boys Press’ love of the bold and brave stories published independently.
Adam Wing has self-published several books, and his latest is Matriach. This story within a story is part fairytale, part coming-of-age. There are three main characters in the story: Ollie, Ayla, and their great-granddaughter, Cass. Even though Ollie drives the plot of the story within the story, Cass is the real protagonist. She sits with the matriarch of their family at her deathbed and is forever changed by the event. While they wait for the end, Gran tells Cass the story of how she met Ollie. In the fairytale within the story, Cass learns that not all is as it seems. In fact, Gran is not who she seems.
If you have ever sat with a loved one during their last hours of life, you know it is a painful and sorrowful experience. It can also be very spiritual to watch a soul leave a human vessel. I held my father’s hand when he took his last labored breath. My mother, brother, sisters and I watched as his spirit moved on from a body defeated by cancer. He left behind a legacy: his sense of joy and curiosity lived on in our human vessels.
Surely Cass in Matriarch is expecting the same experience. Gran has lived 119 years and will be remembered by her family: all 138 of them. As she settles in to hear the story of how her great-grandparents met, she expects a happy beginning, one that equals the love story they lived before Ollie’s mysterious death. Cass has to be anticipating the peaceful ending of a life well lived.
But often in life, we don’t get the happy story we expected. Instead, we find that we are allotted unfair and incomprehensible realities. My mother suffered from dementia for the last years of her life. At first she fought for control—both within herself and with her children, who tried to take over her care. In the end, she was lost inside a vessel. Her human form was the same we remembered, but the essence of who she had once been was missing. When she passed away, I rejoiced at the thought of my mother’s soul restored and whole, free of the damaged vessel.
Gran asks Cass for her bracelet, one she had for years, since she met Ollie in Turkey after World War I. Tarnished and broken, the bracelet seems like the last piece of jewelry Gran would ask for on her deathbed. But Gran assures Cass that the bracelet has more stories in it than she can imagine, and the most recent is the story of her great-grandfather. The bracelet is a story within the story within the story. It is not a vessel, but it belonged to a living form whose bones, sinews, and blood housed a soul that haunted it.
Cass must want to find answers in the story within a story. As the protagonist, she has a responsibility to the plot’s progression, so she encourages Gran to finish her story even as the ancient vessel begins to grow weary. If Matriarch is part fairytale and part coming-of-age, then the climax of the book is that moment where Cass grows up. She learns the truth about her great-grandparents and as many of us do, assumes the legacy Gran leaves when her body fails. When Gran’s vessel is empty, Cass is changed, the end of the story a climax and a resolution.
In the silence after death, many of us will find solace in our elderly loved one’s spiritual journey. We can find peace in the elevation of their soul and celebrate the end of pain from their human vessel, aged and damaged. We will grieve, but we know that what our loved ones left us lives on in us: love and joy, hope and promise. This was the gift my parents left me, what I carry on the darkest days.
Each of us is a vessel to be filled. Read Matriarch to find out what Gran leaves for Cass, the curse she assumes from a life long and storied.
Emily Rozmus lives in rural Ohio in an old, haunted house, just one of the many she has lived in over the years. A former English teacher and school librarian, she has published non-fiction writing in School Library Connection, The Ohio Journal of English Language Arts, and on the Nerdy Book Club blog. She also reviewed children’s books for School Library Connection. Emily is drawn to gothic literature.