Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Hesitation Wounds by Amy Koppelman

Amy Koppelman is a graduate of Columbia's MFA program. Her writing has appeared in The New York Observer and Lilith. She lives in New York City with her husband, Brian Koppelman, and their two children. Her previous novels are A Mouthful of Air and I Smile Back, slated for the Toronto Film Festival and general release in Fall 2015.

Amy also wrote ‘I Smile Back’ which was adapted into a film in 2015 starring actress/comedian Sarah Silverman. Sarah was recently nominated for a SAG award based on her performance of Laney.

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About the Book

The new novel by the author of I Smile Back, now a film starring Sarah Silverman. The acclaimed author of I Smile Back, Amy Koppelman is a novelist of astonishing power, with a sly, dark voice, at once fearless and poetic.

In Koppelman’s new novel, Dr. Susanna Seliger is a renowned psychiatrist who specializes in treatment-resistant depression. The most difficult cases come through her door, and Susa is always ready to discuss treatment options, medication, and symptom management but draws the line at engaging with feelings. A strict adherence to protocol keeps her from falling apart.

But her past is made present by one patient, Jim, whose struggles tear open Susa’s hastily stitched up wounds, revealing her latent feeling that she could have helped the people closest to her, especially her adored, cool, talented graffiti-artist brother.

Spectacularly original, gorgeously unsettling, HESITATION WOUNDS is a novel that will sink deep and remain—like a persistent scar or a dangerous glow-in-the-dark memory.

Get it on Amazon!

Keep reading for an excerpt:

When I was a little girl, I would sit on the roof and watch you spin around in circles. Arms in air. Palms toward sky. You turned and turned without ever falling. I should have recognized your balance was superior to my own. Instead, I stood, moved my body as you did, round and round, and quickly sank to the ground. You joined me there, leaned back onto your elbows, and smiled at me as I worried about how long the world would spin. Yours rotated on a singular axis, which I, for many years, mistook for purpose.

Time spins until it stops spinning. That simple. Later. Older. High. We watched the world spin without our having to move. And now, all these years later—even with distance—it is, still. Perspective, I’ve learned, is intrinsic to equilibrium. Happiness, on the other hand, is a sole operator. Denying you—click clock—until you become older than you ever thought capable. Your hands protruding from dark sheets drag the covers up over your head as you ache to remember and forget. Uncertain as to which would be a better outcome.

The pink morning light casts a glow across the ceiling. I check the time. It’s 6:15 a.m. The train leaves at 8:15 a.m, so we have time. But not too much time. I swing my legs over the bed, grab my glasses. Today is your forty-fifth birthday. It’s hard to believe we haven’t seen each other in nearly twenty-eight years. I understand intellectually that twenty-eight years is a long time. I was a girl then. I’m a middle-aged woman now. But for some reason it doesn’t feel like a long time ago and I don’t feel old.

I guess there’s some kind of cognitive dissonance at work, because there are still moments when I’d swear you’re alive. Not whole, maybe, but pieces. On Halloween, for example, a three-foot-tall pirate—partial, I would soon discover, to Almond Joy bars— had your same dark and pensive eyes. I held out the candy bowl, he looked up at me, and in a flash, a split second between his hold off and my go ahead, you were alive.

What I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older is that time isn’t, for both good and bad, a linear construct. The past beats beneath the present, threatening to unmask and reveal my regret to the world, or perhaps worse, to the forty four-year-old woman who greets me every morning in the bathroom mirror. She too brushes her teeth, flosses twice a day, applies bleach strips to combat the inescapable decay. Cavities, receding gums, bone loss. The ability to delude oneself, and this I can validate from both professional and personal experience, is central to processing loss, yellow teeth enamel the least of it.

I keep two pictures beside my bed. One Margo sent a few weeks after your funeral. You’re sitting on the bench at 149th, watching a subway car pass through the station. It has “BENARD IS KING” painted in huge orange and blue block letters in honor of the Knicks’ legendary small forward. Just to the right, in smaller black letters, is your tag.

“JAKYL.” If you look closely, you can make out the shell toe of your Adidas resting atop a trashcan. What you can’t see is that my feet are resting there too. Margo wrote “Memory lives forever” on the back of the photo, which is really not true. Memory lives only as long as the people who remember.

I spin.

I am spinning.

A rhinoceros dances on his tippy-toes. A porcupine eats ice cream and I wait for you to return to me. Your face—I can reach out and nearly touch it before you fade. It will never be that we will age together. You eternally nineteen. I try to figure out still. What I missed. Words I let pass, smells I didn’t recognize, unfamiliar tastes and sounds. Each an opportunity I failed to seize. Each a possibility to save you. Although now, so many years, so many patients later, I am aware that treatment is not without consequence, death without promise, visions without meaning. And hand-holding is merely that.

You spin.

The foul-smelling summer envelops both moon and stars. You stand alone, nothing left to wish upon. But you insist. For what I’m still not sure. A sign of validation. A resuscitation of sorts? It doesn’t occur to me to ask. You reach for my hands and I reach back—ours an unconditional covenant—until you break it, letting go. You are spinning. Lightning bugs illuminating Kodachrome.

Your teardrops, embedded in dust, have scattered into places I have more and more difficulty accessing. Around the corner—through the door—the third page in the navy photo album. Thirty-five-millimeter film. Auto exposure mode. There you are: orange towel, blue trunks, a slight smile and sunburn. There you are again, seagulls surrounding you, a bag of potato chips dipped in ketchup—what book is that you’re reading?

And there I am. In the kitchen. A paper cup in chubby hands.

“Milk? Water? Apple juice?” Mom asks.

“Apple juice.”

She returns from the fridge with a large glass bottle.

“Mommy, how much do you love me?”

We face each other. The smell of freshly cut grass itching at my nose. I mention this because we are away on vacation. It’s a summer day, a beautiful summer day. The kind of day where people water flowers, paint houses, cut grass.

“How much do you love me?” I ask again.

“With my whole heart,” she answers.

“Then what about Daniel and Daddy?”

“I love them with my whole heart too.”

“How? How can you love all of us with your whole heart?”

“Well...” She takes a moment. “The heart isn’t like a Dixie cup. It doesn’t fill, it expands.”

And then. Space and time a defy-able entity. You and I are facing each other. You’re sipping a milkshake through a paper straw. Daniel Seliger, age eight, sips milkshake through a paper straw, and when the straw softens, when he can no longer draw the vanilla through, he begins to cry. I turn away. Memory is like this for me now. I can turn away from it. I repeat this thought out loud, as if the mere act of saying it, like an incantation, will transform the idea into reality. And because it’s true. I can do this now.

Most of the time.


  1. This is great and a fabulous book! Thank you!

    1. Thanks for your feedback. I'm sure the author will appreciate it. You can also help out by leaving a review on Amazon. Authors depend on reviews to help sell their books! :-D


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