Monoceros, a novel by Suzette Mayr

” Max adjusts the single magnet on the fridge, a mini replica of the Starship Monoceros from his favourite television show, Sector Six. He brushes past Walter on his way out of the kitchen and into the TV room because tonight is Monday night and Monday night is Sector Six night even if it’s just mid-season reruns and a boy died today. ”

The boy was Patrick Furey. Max is the principal of the school Patrick attended and Max lives with Walter, the guidance counsellor at the same school who had an appointment with Patrick shortly before Patrick killed himself.

The story opens with “The End” and it is the end on one level. On another level it is just the beginning because Patrick’s death changes the lives of everyone inside the circle of his acquaintences.

A crisis team of professionals is brought in to the school and they hold a debriefing circle along with Walter’s colleague, Pam. Pam tells the students the facts about Patrick’s death:- “His mother found him in his bedroom. He hanged himself. He left no note.”

“Pam’s voice stinging as she goes about cleaning and sterilizing, embalming and stitching up the violence.  -Not a single person should feel any guilt. No one is to blame, she says. Pan folds her hands in front of her chest, her eyes blinking quickly.  -Not his friends. Not his family. She closes her eyes for a moment. What she doesn’t say:  Not even the dead boy.  Her words hang chest-level from her praying fingers. ”

One of the crisis team Walter calls Margarine because it separated her out from other Margarets that he had met once before at a convention she attended. “The beefy one in the grey pants is named Kyle, and then the blonde, big-jawed one Jed. Margarine, Kyle and Jed. Here to save them.”

Suzette Mayr exposes grief counselling bluntly and accurately. She is equally blunt but not, it should be noted, unfair, in developing the characters in this novel. Her characterizations of  all the people listed below, those who are not to blame, are fair and empathetic. These are all just regular folks living complicated lives. As was Patrick. Their individual viewpoints presented in the novel (Max; Walter; Patrick’s mother, Gretta; Faraday, a student; Mrs. Mochinski, the English teacher; Ginger, Patrick’s lover; Petra, Ginger’s girlfriend; Patrick’s father) are so well written that the reader becomes quite comfortable with them and understands their motivation and behaviour.

This novel would be a valuable read for teens, parents and teachers to increase their understanding and, hopefully, make them wiser and more aware.  It has the capability, if we let it, to teach us how to think about a number of relational issues. Those things aside, however, because I don’t wish to tell anyone what they “ought” to read and/or why: this is a really good read on a difficult subject.