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Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Characters and a Mission!

Peterson’s novel [Leave of Absence] is eye-opening and beautiful. — (Reviewed by CAROLINE COMEAUX LEE)

Leave of Absence’s Oliver Graham loved his wife and son more than life itself. When they died, he wanted to follow them. How could he possibly live when his reasons for living were gone and it was all his fault?

Penelope Baker’s happy and successful life came to an abrupt halt before she turned thirty years old. Months after becoming engaged to the man she deeply loved, strange symptoms began. As she laments to Oliver after a therapeutic group in the behavioral health center at which they are staying, “I mean, it’s not that easy to just write your future. I was writing mine, but then my brain went haywire. I am a schizophrenic. Period. End of story.” Penelope even wishes to break off her engagement to her fiancée William. She loves him dearly, and she wants to give him his freedom from her so he can have better, normal, life.

Like Sylvia Nasar did in her book, A Beautiful Mind, Peterson propels her readers into Penelope’s mental anguish and reveals how the illness affects those who have to watch a loved one suffer….The author helps strip away the surface stereotypes associated with those who suffer from PSTD and schizophrenia to show the real people underneath.”   —The US Review of Books (John E. Roper)

Leave of Absence is about human beings. Penelope is wrestling with schizophrenia and the havoc it has wreaked on her life. Oliver doesn’t even want to live. He lost his family in a very traumatic way, and as a result he is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and complicated mourning. They are two people who, like everyone else, are trying to figure out their difficulties and determine where they belong in the world.

“The characters are beautifully portrayed in that you can understand and feel their pain. Peterson has a gift for bringing a seemingly complex thought to life and replicating it in a way that the general public may understand….Peterson deals with the characteristics of each individual with perfection, all the while giving us a taste of true human suffering. If you enjoy novels that deepen your understanding and deal with the process of grieving, pick up Leave Absence today.”  —Portland Book Review

I’m on a mission when I write. I’m out to humanize mental illness, to deepen empathy and compassion. I love writing fiction because people empathize with characters and commonly transfer that empathy to real-life people.  It’s important to me to increase understanding of mental illness and the people who experience it for a number of reasons. I’m credentialed as a Nationally Certified Counselor (U.S.), and I’ve worked with people in a variety of settings to help them help themselves and overcome obstacles. And I myself live with mental illness. I’ve even spent time in a behavioral health center – one that became the model for Airhaven Behavioral Health Center in Leave of Absence (but I of course fictionalized it).

From (Reviewed by Caroline Comeaux Lee):
Peterson gives readers an inside perspective on mental illness and the challenges it presents.
In her stirring book, her background as both a practitioner and writer is evident. 
The writing flows smoothly, and the depictions of scenes, particularly the dramatic meltdowns, are so detailed that the reader gets sucked in. It was easy to fall in love with the characters, even the minor ones.

Admittedly, I also write novels because it’s fun. I can put my characters through all sorts of stuff, we can live ups and downs together, we can get emotional together, and in so doing we form deep bonds. Writing Leave of Absence was a challenge, but it was an enjoyable one. Among other things, schizophrenia involves psychotic symptoms like delusions and hallucinations. Creating those resulted in a twisted Eleanor Roosevelt, Kerffies, a unique interpretation of shapes and colors, and a unique way of being in the world. Very fun! (Because it’s realistic rather than stereotypical.)

Peterson succeeds in demystifying the world of psychiatric care and challenging the stigma that continues to surround mental health.   —Kirkus Reviews

As Oliver and Penelope are out and about in the world, I’ve been busy continuing my mission to build understanding and empathy. This spring, someone new is coming to the world. An early peek will be on Famous Five Plus soon!

Watch the video from this award winning novel...

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