We are delighted to welcome Heidi Cullinan with her latest novel
Carry The Ocean
The Roosevelt, Book 1
Normal is just a setting on the dryer.
High school graduate Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then a tornado named Emmet Washington enters his life. The double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey—and he’s autistic.
But Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When his untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet is the white knight who rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility nearby.
As Jeremey finds his feet at The Roosevelt, Emmet slowly begins to believe he can be loved for the man he is behind the autism. But before he can trust enough to fall head over heels, he must trust his own conviction that friendship is a healing force, and love can overcome any obstacle.
Warning: Contains characters obsessed with trains and counting, positive representations of autism and mental illness, a very dark moment, and Elwood Blues.
I wish I had more stars to award...
And I don't really have words to describe what this book did to me.
Heidi Cullinan is a master story teller. I've devoured most everything she's published, and I was salivating for this book. I was also a little apprehensive about how she was going to pull off writing a character on the autism spectrum falling in love with a character who's been diagnosed with major depression and clinical anxiety.
In the hands of another author, this might have been a disaster. In the extremely capable hands of Heidi Cullinan it became a masterfully written, carefully researched and exquisitely respectful master piece.
I don't know a whole lot about autism, other than what I've been able to glean online, and there is such a wide spectrum that it would be difficult for anyone to really comprehend the range of this kind of normal.
I do however know depression, having experienced it myself as a bout of post-partum that made the world look bleak and feel like a black hole, sucking every minuscule milligram of joy from my life. And even though I managed to climb out of that hole, it helped me understand just what Jeremey feels like.
So, perhaps therefore I was able to more closely connect with Jeremey than with Emmet on a purely psychological level, but I adored them both.
Emmet is analytical, straight-forward. He's kind, even if he can't make eye contact. He realizes his limitations, but his parents, especially his mother, have always been very supportive, and have encouraged him to live his life as fully as possible. Emmet loves trains, counting, and the Blues Brothers. And Jeremey.
Jeremey, on the other hand, doesn't have supportive parents. His mother especially, a woman I loathed with a passion for most of the book, has made it extremely difficult for Jeremey to even function. She continuously forces him into situations that she knows will overwhelm him and then berates him for failing.
Jeremey is much more in touch with his own feelings and those of others, which helps and hinders him both.
But Emmet sees Jeremey and decides that they should be friends. And then boyfriends. And live together. Because Emmet believes in Jeremey more than anyone else believes in Jeremey, and together they succeed where they have individually failed.
Of course, it's not without setbacks, and both Emmet and Jeremey have to reassess their limits, but their journey together - it made me weep and it made me smile.
This book is an experience like no other, and I cannot think of anyone who would have been able to treat these very difficult subjects with such care and compassion, and such respect.
The side characters, including David, who is a quadriplegic and a major catalyst in how Emmet and Jeremey communicate, were well done, even if I didn't like Jeremey's parents. David is wonderfully explored, and his character is given an important role by setting his physical disability in contrast to the psychological disabilities in this book, showcasing how differently he works with the hand fate has dealt him. It was also pointed out quite clearly that Emmet sees David as a man, and thus as a potential love interest for Jeremey, instead of just someone in a wheelchair, which causes a huge strife between the men, and is part of a very dark period in their lives, almost derailing them.
This is still a love story at its core, and as such is presented in a loving, emotional way, showcasing how the two characters feel about each other, showing how connected they are, despite and because of their individual limitations.
This was a master piece, and there is no way my review can even attempt to do it justice.
It's still early in the year, but this book is easily going to be in my list of the top reads for 2015.
Read it, I beg you.
** I received an early review copy of this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **
You can read an excerpt of this amazing book here.
Get the book:
(available April 7, 2015)
Facts About Depression & Anxiety
(by Heidi Cullinan)
When I look back, I’ve had depression since middle school, and the anxiety started in high school. Or maybe they were swirled together all along, and I only noticed those feelings more specifically at those times. That’s the thing with both depression and anxiety. They’re entirely in your head. People who don’t have depression or anxiety think this means you can erase negative feelings as soon as you realize they’re present. To those of us living with mental health challenges, we know it simply means your demons never take a day off.
—Jeremey Samson, Carry the Ocean
- Generalized anxiety disorder affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population.
- Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3. It affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.
- Many people with an anxiety disorder also have a co-occurring disorder or physical illness, which can make their symptoms worse and recovery more difficult. It’s essential to be treated for both disorders.
- More people die from suicide each year than from automobile accidents, and many at risk for attempt are not receiving mental health care.
“You’re uncomfortable again.”
I was. I was starting to breathe too fast too, and I could feel my heart banging like it wanted out of my rib cage. I shut my eyes. Oh God, I was going to have a panic attack here, at the picnic. My mother would never forgive me. “I—I have to…go.” I glanced around, realizing how many people had arrived, how close they were to me. My breath got shallower and shallower, and I wanted to cry. “I can’t get out of here. I’m trapped. They’re going to be so angry.”
“Will you let me help you?”
I blinked at Emmet, not understanding what he was saying at first. He still didn’t look at me, but he had his hand out, and he’d stopped rocking, waiting.
I put my hand in his. I don’t know why, but I let him lead me away from the tree, away from the picnic. He navigated me around some garbage cans at the corner of the house, parked me on a bench and sat beside me. He let go of my hand, and he left plenty of space between us. He said nothing, only sat with me as I took deep breaths and calmed myself down.
Almost all countries have a national suicide prevention center hotline. The sites offer aid for those struggling with suicidal thoughts, but they also give tips for people who love someone who is struggling. Wikipedia has a lengthy list of sites by country.
The thing to remember about depression and anxiety is that they are conditions. Chronic illness, like a heart condition or diabetes. They do not go away by someone saying, “buck up” or “snap out of it.” Sometimes immediate issues can be smoothed by grabbing one’s bootstraps and hauling oneself out of the muck, but people suffering from clinical depression and anxiety have more muck per square inch than people who don’t share their condition. Worse, the muck is something only they can see.
What you can do to help people with depression or anxiety is be patient and show love. Sometimes loving a person with these conditions can be frustrating and challenging. It’s absolutely challenging to have these conditions.
As a culture, we have a lot of work to do in accepting mental illness as a legitimate illness we treat with the same respect and seriousness as we do physical ones. People who have depression and anxiety are people. They feel everything everyone else does. In fact, they often feel much, much more, and that’s part of what they struggle with.
“Emmet,” she began at one of our morning meetings, “we need to talk about how many rules you’re giving Jeremey to remember about the apartment.”
The way she said it made it sound as if I’d complained to her, and I freaked out. “It’s fine. His rules are fine.”
She caught my hand and laced our fingers together, soothing me. Tammy touched me all the time, hugging me and smiling. It always mesmerized me, and it did now too.
Emmet rocked slightly in his seat as he stared at the tabletop. “Rules are important. Consistency is important.”
“I know, honey, but you have to remember Jeremey’s brain isn’t the same as yours. He overwhelms easily, and he’s not going to tell you when it’s too much. Jeremey is working on vocalizing his needs, but for now I’m going to be his voice. He doesn’t have a camera brain for information. He reads emotion. Which means while he can’t remember the angle you wanted him to leave the couch at, he can relay all the emotions you had yesterday and the day before.”
I read emotion? I thought about what she said. I couldn’t remember what I’d eaten for breakfast, but yes, I knew Emmet had woken up slightly grumpy, got happy when the train passed, got horny when he asked me to come into his room for sex. He was relaxed after, but too keyed up until I went to take a shower so he could be alone.
I blinked. Wow. Yeah. I totally read emotions.
If you don’t have depression or anxiety, be aware you likely know a lot of people who do. They probably haven’t told you because we don’t live in a world where that kind of information is comfortable to share. So instead, be patient with people in general. Allow people to be something other than “normal.”
Whatever in the world that is supposed to be.
About the author:
The grand prize this time is a signed copy of Carry the Ocean in paperback, a Blu-ray of The Blues Brothers, an Iowa State magnet, and Carry the Ocean scrapbook art.
This Blog's Giveaway:
Thanks for stopping by. Until next time, happy reading.
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