Time is a river.
1985. The death of Eleanor’s twin sister tears her family apart. Her father blames her mother for the accident. When Eleanor’s mother looks at her, she sees only the daughter she lost. Their wounded family crumbles under the weight of their shared grief.
1993. Eleanor is fourteen years old when it happens for the first time… when she walks through an ordinary door at school and finds herself in another world. It happens again and again, but it’s only a curiosity until that day at the cliffs. The day when Eleanor dives… and something rips her out of time itself.
And on the other side, someone is waiting for her.
Eleanor is the novel I have been writing for thirteen years. Some things take a very long time to come together. The best things, usually.
About the Author
Jason Gurley is the author of the bestselling novel Greatfall as well as The Man Who Ended the World, the Movement trilogy and Eleanor, a novel thirteen years in the making. His short stories, including The Dark Age, The Caretaker, The Last Rail-Rider and others, appear in his collection Deep Breath Hold Tight: Stories About the End of Everything. He is work has appeared in a number of anthologies, among them David Gatewood’s From the Indie Side and Synchronic and John Joseph Adams’s Help Fund My Robot Army!!! & Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects. Jason is a designer by trade, and has designed book covers for Amazon Publishing, Subterranean Press, Prime Books and many independent authors, among them bestsellers Hugh Howey, Matthew Mather, Russell Blake, Michael Bunker, Ernie Lindsey and others. Jason lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest.
Last week, Jason Gurley sent out a free advanced copy of Eleanor to his mailing list subscribers, of which I am fortunate enough to be one (you should go join it!). I’d been looking forward to reading this one for a while, so, naturally, I dug in as soon as I could on the afternoon it hit my in-box.
Maybe it’s the brief mention of Peter Benchley’s Jaws early on, or the frantic consternation of a mother single-handedly dealing with her young children, but for whatever reason, the opening chapters seemed to be channeling a very strong early Steven Spielberg vibe for me. Maybe it’s just being an 80s kid, but I could see the young Eleanor and her sister, Esmerelda, as an E.T.-era Drew Barrymore, and the horrific automobile accident that sets the story in motion was gut-twisting and horrific.
Whatever that ephemeral it is, or maybe it’s simply the sepia-toned gleam of nostalgia, unrequited love, and sentimental what-ifs that surround his characters, Gurley is able to capture it with aplomb. His writing sucked me in from the get-go, and I found his ability to form portraits of his characters and their sadness, their heartache, their recriminations, and the horrors that life inflicts upon them, to be utterly compelling. The language is clear and precise, and at times I felt a bit like Eleanor herself after learning of her new ability to pass through multiple worlds. More than once I felt as if I’d been physically transported to the rain-soaked coasts of Oregon, sharing in the sorrow of his strained creations.
Eleanor is a weighty book, heavy with emotional strife, but also a resonance of brilliant importance and one that deftly maneuvers between life’s ordinary and extraordinary moments. Most of all, the story is eminently relateable – we all wish we could undo the damage and take back the pain. In some ways, those horrors are what ultimately define us, our scars are a collection of life lived, but if we had the choice, if we had the ability to redo certain things, wouldn’t we? And depending on the nature of those wounds, wouldn’t there a be a certain moral necessity in hitting a reset button?
There’s no easy answers, but Gurley’s work certainly provokes a reaction, ranging from tear-jerking scenes to emotional triumph, and certain philosophical thoughts after the last page is read. While Eleanor’s story is wrapped up at the novel’s end, and I felt supremely satisfied by the work itself, I still wanted more and wished there were more pages to read, more worlds to jump through. This story will be staying with me for a long, long while.