It doesn't happen often. A few times in the course of a lifetime of reading. If you're lucky. I'm talking about a book that changes the way you see yourself. The way you see the world. Life, death, and all the stuff in between. Stories that hit you in such a profound place that you are not quite the same person when you turn the final page.

Books that have had that kind of affect upon me are David Lozell Martin's Crazy Love. Don Robertson's Praise the Human Season. Robert Cormier's Other Bells For Us To Ring.

These novels touched my soul and gave me a broader prospective on the road we all travel. They made me consider the ramifications of being a human being and what living means. What it means to truly love someone. And what happens when our own final page is turning.

Who the hell wants to die, anyway?

Tragically, a lot of people do. Some achieve the goal when they have years or even decades ahead of them.

J. Michael Straczynski is legendary in comics and screenwriting circles. He's been at the game a long time, and he has a distinguished pedigree. I'm not completely familiar with his body of work, but I doubt he has written anything like Together We Will Go.

The novel opens with Mark Antonelli, a failed writer. He can't sell his stuff, and can't really succeed at much of anything. Tired of humiliation, he has decided to bid farewell to life. He concocts a rather bizarre plan. He takes out a cryptic online classified ad which asks other people to join his quest. Antonelli buys a beat up old bus and plans to drive across the country, picking up those who wish to commit suicide with him. When they get to San Francisco, the bus, and everyone in it, is to plummet off a cliff.

The catch is this: All parties must keep an electronic journal of their thoughts along the way. Together We Will Go is an epistolary novel, and is completely comprised of the journal entries, audio recordings, and texts.

An eclectic group is assembled:

A lonely woman whose entire life is pain from a rare physical affliction.

A spirited party girl who has no control over her destructive behavior.

A man whose skin is literally blue due to chronic cyanosis.

An older gentleman with a dreadful secret.

A post-gender individual who can no longer take the pain and unhappiness of this world.

A woman with a terminal weight condition who is sick of incessant bullying.

A junkie who has been to the brink of death numerous times. His dying cat is his only hold on life and hope.

And a paid driver with ghosts in his mind and his past.

OK, you probably have an idea what happens. They form bonds and discover reasons to stay alive. Well, sort of, but the problems of these people won't disintegrate so easily. Together We Will Go isn't that mundane.

Straczynski does a brilliant job of bringing humanity to these outcasts of society. He deftly avoids treating suicide as anything glamorous, nor does he condemn it. With this book he attempts to understand what drives people to such extremes. He does so with warmth, wit, and often with joy. Yet Straczynski does not fail to depict the darkness inside his tortured creations.

Some might consider Together We Will Go to be a depressing novel. I felt nothing of the sort. This book, this wonderful book, helped me to cherish life more. It moved me to feel even deeper love for my wife, Clara, and to appreciate all the good things we have.

So far 2021 has been a great year for reading. I was sure other books would top my list of favorites. Paul Theroux's Under the Wave at Waimea, Stephen King's Billy Summers, Catriona Ward's The Last House on Needless Street are all miraculous works of fiction. None have come close to hitting me in the guts as much as J. Michael Straczynski's Together We Will Go. It not only will be my favorite book of this crazy, chaotic year. This novel is on the very short list of the most moving and powerful books I have ever, or will ever, read.

Buy Together We Will Go. Read it, and give it to a loved one. Then buy it again. This is a book you will want to revisit.

Written by Mark Sieber

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