So here's the synopsis written for my first novel, the older version that feels a little laboured and floppy. I think I wrote this under pressure of a deadline and it shows. It smells of desperation. Please, please, please make this novel about something, damnit!
When your self-esteem is shattered by harsh reality, can stories save you?
Astrid Reinhart is set to coast through this two-week hospital job, all she has to do is turn up every morning and smile sweetly, but the ward that awaits both entices and terrifies her. Martin Finn, a successful novelist whose stroke has left him with the rare locked-in syndrome, wants Astrid to help him write his next story - one letter at a time. Leith McAuley, Astrid's fuck-off-flatmate, through a volley of four-lettered philosophy, encourages Astrid to abandon her professional veneer and immerse herself in the worlds of her patients. Astrid remains unconvinced until a stray bite misses her lunch and takes off the end of her tongue. Unable to communicate beyond painful, barely decipherable utterances, Astrid has no choice but to listen.
Martin is not the only patient with a story to tell. In group therapy sessions that build in intensity, Astrid navigates lecherous physiotherapists, depression-era lottery capers, would-be cosmonauts, rioting soldiers on Brisbane city streets, a ghostly reunion in a devastating flood, and murderous revenge on a rotten police officer. Lost in her own unsettling memories of childhood, Astrid gradually loses control of her patients and their stories. Past and present collide amidst projectile bibles and Mozart arias as Astrid's careful facade is stripped away to reveal the damaged young girl who plays at being the professional therapist.
How can she recover, reassess her career, and put her fears into true perspective while in full view of her patients? Miracles are the stuff of fantasy, but maybe small changes for the better can be smuggled through catastrophes. Astrid compiles her individually dictated alphabet soup into Martin's story. And she discovers something extraordinary.
Blending the gentle ironies of Nick Earls with the epic scale of Venero Armanno, Here Today is an evocative and rich exploration of Brisbane and Brisbane lives past and present. Funny, exciting, revelatory, and harrowing, Here Today is a journey of discovery with a simple message: don't wait for life to happen to you. Like the stories of its characters, Here Today is a novel that demands to be heard.