Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pushing Yourself Over the Edge by Gary Morgenstein, Author of Jesse's Girl

Today's guest blogger is Gary Morgenstein, author of the thriller Jesse's Girl.

How much should a parent sacrifice for a troubled child? In Gary Morgenstein’s taut new thriller, Jesse’s Girl, the answer is – anything.

Anchored around a floundering father-son relationship, finding roots and re-uniting vanished bonds, this timely novel about teen addiction and adoption follows a desperate father’s search for his son, who has run away from a wilderness program to find his biological sister in Kentucky.

Available exclusively from Amazon.com, Jesse’s Girl opens as a jarring phone wakes lifelong Brooklynite Teddy Mentor well after midnight. It’s the Montana wilderness program saying that his 16-year-old adopted son has vanished – and they haven’t a clue where he’s gone. Only two weeks ago, Jesse had been taken to the program by escorts to deal with substance abuse problems.

Jeopardizing his flagging PR job in New York, Mentor rushes across the country to find Jesse, who is off on his own quest: to find Theresa, the sister he’s never known. When Teddy finally discovers Jesse at a bus stop in Illinois, he is torn between sending him back or joining his son on a journey to find this girl in Kentucky. He decides to go. They become embroiled in a grisly crime when Theresa’s abusive husband Beau attacks her – Jesse stabs the big beast of a man, leaving him for dead.

Given Jesse’s misdemeanor criminal record, Teddy can’t go to the authorities without risking his son’s arrest. However, Beau is not dead, merely wounded, and he hunts them down, thirsty for revenge. Teddy, Jesse and Theresa flee across the Bluegrass State with Beau in hot pursuit. Seeking safety but finding trouble, their story leads them to an ultimately shattering question: is Theresa really Jesse’s sister or has he been scammed?

"Pushing Yourself Over the Edge" by Gary Morgenstein

A writer must push his comfort level. What else is writing but descending/ascending into that abyss/summit where your strange imagination lives in a parallel world? It is painful and scary. But we’re not alone. While pressing against our own internal boundaries, we’re also inviting the reader along for the ride.

In Jesse’s Girl, I ripped out my creative spleen. After all, this is a thriller about a family in crisis, the trifecta of parenting, addiction and adoption. A widowed guilt-ridden father, Teddy Mentor, has his troubled adopted teenage son Jesse escorted to a drug treatment program in Montana. Their relationship is fractious and intense to read. The turmoil of the violent plot -- their lives are in danger from a brutal killer -- is not intended for the faint of heart. No Saw V for goodness sakes, but real people get hurt.

Real people, especially teenagers battling addiction, swear. Check out an AA meeting sometime. The language can be rough. I had a couple of adoption bloggers refuse to review the book because of that. Not sufficiently family friendly. I mean, really, what world do they live in? The one where adoptees don’t suffer trauma? Where’s that, a right turn past Neptune?

But the harshness comes not from saying %$# or the bloodshed. It comes from the emotions. Jesse’s Girl is about parenting. I’m a father. There is nothing, other than religion, which evokes such a strong consuming response. To write about being a parent means letting go and allowing all the ugly, shameful conflicts pour out. Unless you think raising a kid is tickling your infant and saying kitchy kitchy goo? That world’s a left past Pluto.

You can’t write wrapped in self-censorship. You’re cheating the reader and cheating yourself. I wouldn’t do that to my characters. Nor my fans. Teddy is angry and confused. You parents understand the inherent conflict. You love your child unconditionally and want them to do well and, when they don’t, you beat yourself up emotionally.

Teddy loves and hates his son. He wants to help Jesse and is furious because Jesse won’t help himself; hello, addiction is a disease. Teddy wants Jesse home and he wants to send him away so he doesn’t have to deal with him anymore. Many of his thoughts embarrass him. How can a father think like that?

Because the core of Jesse’s Girl is that Teddy loves his son so much and will make any sacrifice to save him; his very emotional being is a seething cauldron of conflict and contradiction. In some scenes I brought tears to my eyes, forgive the egregious egotism, by what I’d written about Teddy and Jesse. As a father-novelist, the book at times was very difficult to write.

Perhaps some readers will wince at the naked emotions of the novel. But I think anyone who has ever been a child or a parent will appreciate the honesty. And honesty is what writing is all about.


"Gary Morgenstein is a master at twists and turns. His latest work, Jesse's Girl is a masterpiece. The characters are exquisite. The plot will capture the reader's attention and hold them captive until the last page." - Readers Favorite

"...'Jesse's Girl' by Gary Morgenstein, is a thrilling, engrossing page-turner from the very beginning right through the end. But along the way, the author shares serious and wise observations concerning the relationships between the very lifelike characters and challenges the reader to come to a deeper understanding of the bonds between people and the bondage of addiction. The drama is real, and the geographic setting is depicted in vivid and accurate detail. The nature of addiction and the power of the parental bond are central issues in the book, but this in no way detracts from the excitement of the plot, which is a non-stop thrill ride all the way through. The language is quite coarse at times, but the characters are people who are, at best, on the edge, and this makes the language quite realistic for the situations. There is nothing gratuitous about the language; nor is there any gratuitous violence. In fact, there is little in this taut drama that is wasted...I emphatically recommend this book, and look forward to reading other works by this author, who may well come to be regarded as one of the keenest voices in contemporary fiction." - John Balchunas, Psychologist

Novelist/playwright Gary Morgenstein is the author of four novels. In addition to Jesse’s Girl, a thriller about a widowed father’s search for his adopted teenage son who has run away from a drug treatment program to find his biological sister, his books include the romantic triangle Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman, the political thriller Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and the baseball Rocky The Man Who Wanted to Play Center Field for the New York Yankees. His prophetic play Ponzi Man performed to sell-out crowds at a recent New York Fringe Festival. His other full-length work, You Can’t Grow Tomatoes in the Bronx, is in development. He can be reached at www.facebook.com/people/Gary-Morgenstein/1011217889.

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