Fiction presents a unique opportunity to learn in depth from other people’s pain, mistakes, and triumphs of spirit. That’s especially true when the author is a renowned psychotherapist.
Henry-Henry, Shadows & Light
We have to struggle to maintain a sense of humanity in modern times. It’s a struggle that creates inner voices of conflict and covert guilt and shame. In most of us, these voices are faint. In some, they bellow.
A fallen priest with a dual personality tries to find his humanity amid delusion, child abuse, and murder. The narrator of this psychological thriller is one half of the dual personality. The other half, HENRY TWO, has a job, lives in the real world, and wants to be normal. Flashbacks of HENRY ONE’s brief time as a Catholic priest reveal that normal isn’t possible. The story is a fascinating depiction of what happens when interior dialogue, familiar to us all, is amplified and magnified by grave mistakes and trauma.
At the brink of oblivion, when the Henrys can retreat no longer from the real world, they begin a dangerous journey to redemption, confronting the dark shadows of child sex trafficking along the way.
Psychotherapist Stosny’s (Soar Above, 2016, etc.) first foray into fiction is a dark thriller following a man who, despite an iffy grasp on reality, hunts sex traffickers.
Henry One isn’t merely hearing a voice in his head as shrinks have suggested. He’s sharing his body with Henry Two. The latter has a life outside the apartment, while One has been a recluse for the last 10 years since his superiors at Our Lady of Good Counsel asked him to leave the priesthood. The personalities argue constantly. When Two mocks One for his earlier, agonizing experience at the church, One tries to kill him. Doctors, of course, consider it a suicide attempt and send Henry to the Saints of Mercy Mission, a home for former clergy with mental health issues. Tensions decrease between the personalities, and though their collective reality is gradually unraveling inside the mission, they’re both anxious when they hear about its imminent closure. Being outside for the first time in two decades, however, gives them a chance to concentrate on what’s tangible, especially strange new technologies like iPhones and Google. But they discover their true focus when reading about sex-trafficking operations involving children. Convinced the ringleaders have multiple personalities, One and Two think they can help the FBI find them. Stosny’s integration of dual personalities into the storyline helps the novel stand out, and the disorder becomes more than just a convenient plot device. Readers, for example, may forget Two isn’t actually there; characters often note Henry’s tendency to say “we” when referring to himself; and from Henry One’s perspective, Two genuinely snatches a torn magazine out of his hands. Outside forces typically spur the plot twists. The story gets gloomier and more harrowing in the final act, but narrator Henry One provides slivers of light throughout with a cynical but earnest voice: “Reality is a lot harder than I imagined.” Stosny’s typically dry descriptions provide a counterpoint to the plot’s somber content, like simply noting a children’s toothpaste commercial that follows a TV report on child sex-trafficking victims.
The lead’s dual personality gives readers two absorbing characters, regardless of who can or can’t see them.
White Horse Black Horse
Human nature has contradictions that often pull us in opposite directions. Keeping balance is like standing up on two galloping horses at once.
But what if you committed a sin so grave you had to relive it forever? That’s the plight of the three generations of male family members living in an isolated beach house. It’s a hot December, a few thousand years after the great nuclear war – or before it – the stylized characters of this special family aren’t sure which, as they struggle, often comically, for a way to balance good and evil.
The narrator is the older son, in his early thirties, who wants to survive by making his life run on mind-numbing autopilot. His brother has two horses, which he rides in the sand, with one leg on each like an acrobatic circus performer. Their world is turned upside down by the arrival of a young woman, who shows a way to break the treadmill of their lives. She inadvertently heightens the tension between the brothers, revealing the darkness, shadows, and light of being human.
A woman overcomes alienation from her husband and troubled teenage daughter.