There’s nothing more difficult than being a parent. Please indulge my hubris in quoting my own words. The main character in Jesse’s Girl, Teddy Mentor, explains that we think marriage is ‘til death do us part, but that’s not true. Not when about half the marriages in America end in divorce. It’s parenting which is until death do us part. The good and the bad.
I wanted to write about being a father, in this case, a widowed father dealing with a teenage son, Jesse Mentor, gone off the rails, suffering from the awful illness of addiction. Throw in that the kid’s adopted, struggling to find his roots, plus Teddy and Jesse don’t exactly have a Ward and Beaver Cleaver relationship, and let the ride begin. Many times my heart ached for Teddy and Jesse because loving your child so badly you will do anything to help them, only to be roadblocked by their own resistance, creates an overwhelming anger, frustration and pain.
You parents know what I’m talking about. And if you’re not a parent, you’ve been a child and you understand from that window. But most novels about parenting are done from the perspective of a mother, few from the Dad. Without banging my tambourine for Male Liberation, guys hurt, too. We cry over our children and lie awake nights and get stressed. Perhaps, because of society and the way we’ve all been raised, both genders, we don’t show it or are afraid to show it. But it’s there.
As an adoptive father, I also wanted to explore the theme of adoption. The process is wonderful and we all celebrate the gift of a new child into the family. Yet what that masks is the trauma of the adoptee torn from his/her biological mother. The underlying sense of rejection lingers, sometimes maliciously so. Then comes puberty, the doubts about one’s origins inflame, may become infected, add to that the turmoil of teen years in the best of circumstances and you’re confronting a highly combustible situation.
I wanted to look at the difficulty of adoption from parent and adoptee, instead of just whisking issues under the rug. So the search of Jesse in the novel for his biological sister as he reaches for something to hold onto following the breakup of his parents’ marriage, exacerbated by the death of his mother, his descent into addiction, his fear of being 16 and confronting a dangerous world with no rules.
What’s it like when you don’t know what your own parents look like?
Fatherhood. Addiction. Adoption. Above all else, the book is about regular people. Teddy struggles to hold onto his job, 50 plus and being phased out at a PR firm. Jesse, a scared teenager with the courage to find his sister, Theresa. She in turn, looking for her own past, for love not shadowed by domestic abuse like an alien mother ship. On and on. Regular folks like all the regular folks who make up this great country, day by day, getting by, trying to do the right thing, often succeeding, but not always, and living with the consequences of both.
In addition to Jesse’s Girl, Gary Morgenstein’s most recent novels, both available exclusively on Amazon.com, are the political baseball thriller Take Me Out to the Ballgame and the romantic triangle Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman. His chillingly prophetic play Ponzi Man played to sell-out crowds at a recent New York Fringe Festival. A PR consultant for Syfy Channel, he lives in Brooklyn, New York, with lots of books and rock and roll CDs. You can visit him at www.facebook.com/people/Gary-Morgenstein/1011217889 or at http://redroom.com/member/garymorg.