Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Pub. Date: July 6, 2021
While reading the book I was not aware that J. Micahel Straczynski, is the co-creator of many TV shows including “Babylon 5: The Lost Tales.” Even without this knowledge, I could tell that he is a talented and funny writer. “Together We Will Go” is a tragic comedy. I say this because the novel looks at the reasons why people commit suicide yet, the author will make you laugh time and time again. He manages to do this without taking away from the seriousness of the subject matter. For example, the main narrator is a failed novelist with tons of student debt and a degree in writing that pretty much is useless for paying the bills. He thinks, merely coming from Jersey is reason enough to off yourself. If you know any New Jersey jokes, how do you not laugh and that?
The premise of the story is just plain weird. A group of strangers come together, through the classifieds, for a bus trip where the destination is death. They intend to go somewhere pretty and then drive the bus over a cliff. The idea is to not die alone. Straczynski gets the reader to ignore how unbelievable the plotline is by making his characters relatable, human. You can probably find a little bit of yourself in each of them. The only condition to join the death bus is that each rider must journal his/her reasons for wanting to die. Each journal reads like a case study on the character. Some journals are so deep and thought provoking they could have been novels by themselves. Among others, the reader will meet, a person living in chronic pain who just can’t take it anymore, a party-loving bipolar woman who cannot be stabilized with medication, a terminally ill man with a hole in his heart that turns his skin blue, and a gentle soul who is mentally ill and wants to die with his dying cat. They are all hoping that their next life will be a better one. The author does not clump his characters together. He makes them individuals. Some characters believe that they will be going to heaven or hell, others think that they will be reincarnated while others feel that they will return to earth as lifeless particles of matter.
The novel is narrated in a gutsy way that forces the reader to pay attention. Think “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan. Egan had a PowerPoint presentation, but Straczynski has journals, texts, emails, voicemails, and audio recordings. As expected, all characters become endearing to the reader. Nevertheless, don’t expect a Hollywood ending. This is an intelligent, bizarre, and sad story that will make you think that the characters are your friends. You may even go back and reread some of the journals. Sometimes, the tale is a bit too much for my taste. Such as when they break into a mall, cause why not. They are going to die anyway. While inside they do whatever they want, so all hell breaks loose. Even though this is hard to buy (like where are the police?) I did chuckle when an obese girl whacks a stick-wide mannequin, which no real woman looks like while telling the mannequin that she needs to eat a ham sandwich. “Together We Will Go” is not making light of suicide. What the author does do is explore those intense emotions that can become deadly. He just does this in a Monty Python kind of way. He uses humor to show us what it looks like to be depressed, or have suicidal ideation, and how anyone can be vulnerable to suicide. The book closes with The National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.