When Lorrie Thomson began writing her debut novel “Equilibrium,” she never imagined how drastically her perspective would change before the story’s conclusion.
“Equilibrium” is about a family coping with the aftermath of a husband/father’s struggle with bipolar disorder, and the ultimate tragedy brought on by suicide. It is the story of the impact mental illness can have on a family, both in life and death. Though poignant, “Equilibrium” avoids the trap of maudlin, telling the story through the eyes of a mother and daughter who have come to accept that life must be lived, only to see a new challenge surface that threatens their fragile stability. And it is that new challenge, the inherited bipolar trait in the son and brother, that rekindles all the fears and doubts and threatens to destroy what the family has rebuilt.
Thomson devoted hour upon hour to researching her topic. But the full impact of what she was writing hit Lorrie’s heart when her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Though “Equilibrium” remained a fiction novel, the complex family dynamics became truth.
“Equilibrium” is filled with drama. There is romance, love, dashed dreams, fear, and a boatload of emotion and conflict. But, always, there is hope. As stated, the story is told through the mother and daughter’s viewpoints. I liked that we could see how each handled the circumstances affecting their lives, and no matter how different they thought each other to be, in the end, their commonality far outweighed their perceived differences.
Though technically a literary work, I would recommend “Equilibrium” to romance and young adult readers as well. There is definite attraction between major characters, and those relationships bring their own issues to an already struggling family.
A former Bostonian, author Lorrie now resides in New Hampshire with her husband and children where she writes full time, hunts for collectibles, and chats with neighbors over a stone fence.
Q) How did your son’s diagnosis impact “Equilibrium”?
A) I completed the first draft of “Equilibrium” before my son showed any symptoms of his disorder. After having experienced real-life trauma, and re-reading that draft, I was surprised by how accurately I’d portrayed the family’s reactions. In subsequent drafts, I’ve peppered in some from-real-life emotional responses. And the scene in which Laura and Troy visit the father’s/husband’s grave? That was written fairly recently, and helped me unravel a question I’ve been asking myself for years. How can you tell the difference between a loved one’s personality and his mental illness?
Q) I find it interesting that a number of prerelease reviewers have recommended your book as a ‘must read’ for discussion groups and book clubs. You pounded the “I want to be published’ roads for ten years before finding a literary agent who believed in your work. So, how does it feel seeing those kinds of reviews for your debut novel?
Page 2 of 2 - A) It feels wonderful! The response from the local high school has been overwhelming. I’m excited about the enthusiasm from both adult and high school book clubs. I can’t wait to sit down and discuss their reactions to the story. After hanging out alone with my characters, I’m looking forward to hearing the thoughts of many, many book clubs.
Q) A follow-up question: What kind of pressure do those reviews put on you for your next book due out in 2014?
A) Comparison is inevitable. That said, just like a parent with more than one child, I feel every novel I write is special in its own way. I hope the reviewers feel that way, too!
Q) Undoubtedly, some readers will be people who have suffered through the circumstances your characters struggle with. What comfort do you believe your book can provide them?
A) I believe there’s comfort in following the story of others who’ve weathered trauma, persevered, and ultimately thrived. There’s comfort in knowing we’re not alone. We all deserve real-life happy endings, even if those happy endings are different from what we imagined at the beginning of our journeys.
Q) Your next book also deals with life after a loss. What is it about that subject that compels you to write?
A) When searching for a story spark, I look to my own fears. And then, through my characters, figure out how to stand up to them. So many people have lost loved ones, and I admire their resilience. Even though “Equilibrium” and “What’s Left Behind” deal with loss, the story perspectives are very different.
BTW, the 2015 book will deal with a different type of fear.
Q) Any parting thoughts for potential readers?
A) I hope readers come away from “Equilibrium” with the feeling of having connected with the Klein family, the warm fuzzy feeling of, yes, I’ve felt that, too. I’ve been heard and validated.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author. www.kevad.net