Suicide Notes
A Novel

by Michael Thomas Ford

 

Review by Keith Orr

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Thomas Ford is one of my favorite writers.  He writes essays, novels, erotica, sexuality, spirituality, and young adult novels.  In all cases a strong literary voice emerges regardless of the wide variety of genres and styles.  Michael Thomas Ford is truly a master of the written word.

In fact, I believe some of the strength of his writing comes from his wide area of interests, and honing of a craft that allows him to comfortably write in so many genres.  In his novel, "Looking For It" he has a remarkable scene between two older men that is hot in the most classic sense.   After I read the scene I realized that only a writer who writes both literary fiction and gay erotica could have made that scene work.

In "Suicide Notes" Ford narrates 45 days in the life of Jeff, a fifteen-year-old who tries to kill himself on New Year's Eve.  The story unfolds without the reader realizing that the story is also a psychological thriller.  Jeff is engaging, intelligent, and confused.  The source of his confusion is slowly revealed.  At each moment of unravelling Jeff's reactions are true.  The revelation of psychological truth is never easy.  Denial is palpable and even painful.  But ultimately the truth is liberating.

He spends the 45 days in a psychiatric ward.  He insists that he is not crazy.  This was all a mistake.  He did what he did because he felt like it...not because he was crazy.  And yet as the novel progresses the "crazies" start seeming more normal to him, and he has to confront what is normal, what is not, and how he fits into that continuum.

The other "crazies" and the ward's psychiatrist are superbly drawn characters.  Their interplay is a major part of what makes this book work.  Even the minor characters are obviously complex characters whose history is every bit as complex as Jeff's, just not as well known.

This is a book that Sarah Palin would love to prevent children from reading.  The sexuality is straightforward in its presentation, but certainly not straightforward as understood (or misunderstood) by the kids in the ward.  Discovering sexuality is a confusing and difficult time for all kids, but especially for gay kids as evidenced by the high suicide rate for gay teens.  Far from preventing kids from reading this book, I believe it should be required reading for everyone in High School.  Let "Suicide Notes" be taught alongside Catcher in the Rye.  If the reader is gay it may help them understand what they are going through and might even prevent a suicide.  If they are straight they will get their own lessons from the book, in addition to perhaps learning some tolerance for peers who are different.

This book is categorized as "Young Adult", but the complexities of the story make for a compelling literary novel by readers of any age.