The Journey

When you divorce after twenty years of marriage, you wake up one day and realise that you have gone missing. That is not a gender specific thing, it applies universally I would imagine. You entered your union with the hope of conciliation and compromise, intent on building a family. And within that paradigm, something vanishes.

It’s not the same for all. As Jack Water the central character of Looking for Eden, muses that people fall into five categories:

  1. Devoutly single through fear of being hurt. Afraid of commitment. – Jarvis
  2. Suffocating in marriage and life and desperate to get off. – Ted
  3. Divorced, full of regret and lonely. – Me
  4. Strangely happy after twenty years of marriage. – ?
  5. Dead. – Stan

Post-divorce, you don’t enter a process of deconstruction, because you are there already. You just enter a kind of breathless torpor as you learn how to live again – the start of your own personal reconstruction. It can be a bitter, remorseful place.

And you begin to question everything. And in all that questioning, the search, the answers, the required wisdom that you need, it comes to you as a slow dribble – there are no epiphanies, no eureka moments – it’s like squeezing a rotten apple and the occasional pip comes out.

Which makes sense of course, because you are Looking for Eden.

Excerpt from Looking for Eden

“When Jane and I divorced. I was reminded of a saying I once heard, that when you become a widow you remember all the good in the person you had taken from you, but when you divorce you are left with little but enmity, the feelings that determined why you fell apart. When Jane and I sat down in that pub that night to scratch out on a beer mat the terms of our separation, I think we both kept the essence of this in our hearts, and we were more successful than most. We kept the smiling family photos and the home movies as a kind of passport to congeniality, and we threw the disappointment and the arguments out with the trash.”

Excerpt From: Dominic Penhale. “Looking for Eden.”

Together Alone

I had decided to write this book, two years before I commenced it. In my head I had absolute clarity about the story I wanted to tell. But I had no narrative to attach it to. I was in no hurry, my life was busy enough with other things. I went through countless ideas, through my waking and somnolent hours, but nothing stuck.

But one morning I woke abruptly, mid-dream, an unhappy hallucination that kept repeating itself. It was the trigger, it was my narrative. Suddenly I had a story line that I could hang my characters on, that I could use to build the emotional stress that I wanted to impart. I wrote it for me, as a catharsis, an attempt to understand, to release the shackles of remorse. By the end, I felt whole again.

And the pleasure was that it stood outside of the rest of my working life, it was my dirty little secret, and I was beholden to no one. I didn’t have to, or want to think about an audience – even though the story would dictate whom the readers might eventually be – it didn’t matter.

And because I was free, my characters could speak honestly. They didn’t need linguistic excellence, they were just ordinary people living ordinary lives – they weren’t speaking to the reader, they were dealing amongst friends. In fact I made it my responsibility to keep it ordinary, relatable, honest – it was more important to me, that my characters reflected real-life and all it’s indecency, than played to a demographic inspired by an imagined world order. It’s not Hollywood, it’s a common enough, small town provincial truth.

In that sense, I knew that it would be both inclusive and exclusive, all at the same time. Some would get it, and many would not. But mass appeal can only ever speak for the lowest common denominator, so why bother? I wrote it only for those who would know – after all, it was never my intention to poison the innocent? It was my intention to express the very real feeling of ‘together alone’.