Eleanor a novel by Jason Gurley
Jason Gurley began writing Eleanor in the fall of 2001, and self published it in 2014. Crown published it this year. Eleanor is literary fiction with a fantasy element. It is a moving exploration of parenting, siblings, grief and forgiveness. So, for a person who steers clear of self published books, rarely reads fantasy and mid winter, doesn’t voluntarily pick up a book about grief and loss, how does that all come together in a blog-able book? Surprisingly well!
Eleanor and Esme are twins, and you enter their life when they are 6. They are getting ready to drive with their mom, Agnes, to pick their dad up at the airport. Agnes has never really bought into the whole idea of motherhood and is a reluctant parent at best. An accident takes the life of one twin, and as the years go by, that loss destroys their parents’ marriage and Eleanor’s relationship with her mother. Agnes becomes an alcoholic, and Eleanor grows up taking care of her despite her abuse. Sad realistic fiction…until Eleanor is catapulted into another realm, and begins to move back and forth between her life and another world or time.
Figuring out this other world and why Eleanor keeps ending up there is an interesting puzzle. Every time I thought I might just set Eleanor aside, something would hook me and I would feel compelled to keep reading. Like Eleanor, I wanted to figure this story out.
And here is what I figure: I think grief and depression, especially postpartum, are strong forces. When we grieve a loss, especially of a sibling, especially in an accident, we might look back and ask at what point was this accident and this loss put in motion? Could I have stopped it? How? Can that loss be explored through “what ifs” that are beyond space and time as we know them? If I could go back and change the course of history, even at great cost to myself, would I? How far back would I go?
And that fellow readers, is why I kept reading Eleanor. That moment to return to is not where you think.