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OPENING LINES FROM CHAPTER ONE:
Amy stumbles. I catch her arm and nearly fall with her.
Urging her along, I steer her toward our car in the driveway and worry that her appearance and my clumsy effort will attract attention.
I used to enjoy seeing heads turn when Amy dressed in her stylish outfits. Now she's wearing a simple housedress, the only one I could manage to put on her. It hangs on her frail eighty-pound body like a sheet over a stickback chair.
After settling Amy in the passenger seat, I take a quick look around the neighborhood. It's Sunday-evening quiet. Soft breezes sprinkle dots of sunlight along tree-lined Sorrento Avenue. Long black shadows reach across green yards, stretching endlessly. Normally, it's my favorite time of day, but today's different. I'm taking my wife Amy to a place I had promised never to take her.
The radio blares when I start the DeSoto. "Midway along Route 1966," says the DJ, "on Detroit's Top Forty, the Four Tops promise 'Reach Out, I'll Be There.'"
I snap off the radio switch and glance at Amy. She sits in a rag-doll slump and seems not to have heard a thing. I press her overnight bag firmly against her lap, vainly trying to prop her up. Then I frown. Our daughter, Eleni, should be on Amy's lap, but she's at my folks' house. She's too young to understand the reason for the delay of her birthday celebration. Amy's parents, the Millers, know but aren't telling anyone. My mom and pop think Amy's going in for some "neurological tests." They don't ask for details.Amy's eyes widen at my touch, and she says, "Nicky, please don't."
Her sudden reaction suggests that the medication has yet to take full effect, but she's had other episodes where tranquilizers have taken hours to quiet her.
"Sorry, pumpkin. I'm afraid you'll fall against the dash."
"No. I mean don't take me."
"Honey, I wish there was another way, but—"
"I'm all right now. I've mostly slept since you took Eleni to your mom's house. Nicky, please. I'll be better. I belong with Eleni on her birthday. I promise to be good."
"Amy, don't keep saying that. You're not bad, you're sick. And I'm not punishing you."
"Yes you are. You don't know what they'll do to me. Please. Give me another chance. I promise not to be bad, and I'll do whatever you say. But, please, not the hospital."
Nick Demetrious is torn. His twenty-five-year-old wife, Amy, suffers from depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, and Nick is in over his head. But admitting her to the Lynnwood Psychiatric Hospital in Michigan would feel like surrender. On the eve of their daughter's first birthday in 1966, it becomes painfully evident that Nick has no choice. Amy's wasted, eighty-pound body and listless eyes haunt his conscience, and if he doesn't do something now, she might not be around for their daughter's second year.
Excerpt from page 4:
"Though dusk's long shadows lay across the pathway, only a few lights appear to be on inside the hospital. Maybe no one's home and we'll have to leave. Brushing away that thought, I wipe perspiration from my forehead with an icy hand. A sudden chill threatens to overtake me, but I lead Amy like a Sherpa guide coaxing her up Mount Everest.
"When we reach the entrance, I turn the handle and pull, then push hard. The door is locked. A sign beneath a broken lamp reads, "Ring Bell for Entry." I touch the button and am startled by an alarm-like ring. Through a small window in the door, I see movement beyond the wire-imbedded glass. A large, longhaired man dressed in white lumbers toward us. The man in the white coat is coming to get us. The stupid joke is not a joke. When the latch reports a loud clack, I imagine the door opening like a vault. I hear a gust of air escaping with a whoosh and smell disinfectant."
While Amy endures shock treatments and becomes reliant on tranquilizers, Nick struggles with the fear that his love won't be enough to guard against the demons that caused her illness. Faced with conflicting advice from health professionals, family, and friends, the stigma of mental illness, and a sexual temptation he never saw coming, he is propelled into a world of uncertainty.
When Amy returns home, disillusioned by psychiatry's limited methods, she turns toself-help organizations and her own determination forhealing and growth. Her newfound strength and independenceforce Nick to question his role as protector, and mark the beginning of a journey of self-discovery that will span the rest of their marriage.
From 1966 to the present, Desert Lily is the bittersweet tale of one couple's resolve to build their marriage into a balanced and joyful partnership. It is based on a true story.
Desert Lily appeals to a wide range of interests, taking readers along one couple's journey through:
· mental illness
· societal stigma
· sexual temptation
· marriage and family relationships
· healthcare and care giving
· personal resolve to master self-help methods
· end of life issues
The title, DESERT LILY, serves as a metaphor for the novel. It arises from Amy's query "Will I be there when my life begins?" after reading that the bulb of a desert lily becomes buried under two feet of sand and lies dormant for several years before emerging as a beautiful flower.
The author is preparing a book tour for signings and presentations in the coming months. If you are interested in scheduling appearances by Peter Pascaris, contact him using the contact page on the menu at left or by writing him at email@example.com.
An excerpt from pages 96 to 98:
"Quitting time brings Pop and me together at the basement sink to wash our brushes. There's never been a man more loving than my father, but he shows it sparingly and in subtle ways. There've been times when I yearned for more, but tonight I'm content just to have him at my side.
"Thanks, Pop," I say, with more emotion than I expected.
"You bet," he says, leaning his ample belly against the sink and stretching his short arms to the faucet. As a child, I loved him cradling me on his soft belly while wrapping me securely in his hard muscular arms. Now, as he bends forward, splashing water over a brush, Pop looks like a cuddly bear snagging a fish from a mountain stream. In his gentle but effective way, he kneads his fingers into paint-sodden bristles until the brush comes clean.
"Son," he says, still urging the paint from his brush, "how is Amy doing?"
For an instant, I'm the child I was when Pop discovered something I'd tried to hide. At once, anguish and relief wash over me. Suddenly, my shame is not in Amy's illness, but in my failure to honor my father's trust. I'm afraid to tell him everything. I want to run, but cannot turn away. Pop's question holds me fast, as surely as if he has gripped my wrists to compel an answer. I have to—I want to tell him the truth.
Pop looks in my eye and nudges my silence before returning his focus to his task in the sink. The brush is almost clean, and he need not press on as before. "Pop, I haven't told you everything. Amy is very ill. Lynnwood Hospital is not a general hospital like I said. It's a psychiatric hospital. But she's ... she's going to be fine."
"I hear the wooden sound of the brush handle as it clunks against the bottom of the tub. Pop looks up. When our eyes meet, I lower mine; terrified he'll detect another lie. Slowly, my gaze falls from his broad shoulders to his stout, muscular arms, down to his powerful hands—physical features that represent the emotional strength I admire. I love his hands. I remember sitting on his lap as a tot and feeling the rough calluses of his hand against my cheek. I would take his hand and run my fingers along the bumps and lines of his palm. These were mountains and rivers of my lifeline, and I measured my manhood by how nearly my hand fit into his.
"Paint-stained and wet, his stubby fingers curl and his palms turn up as if he's about to reach out. In that moment, I want to put myself in my father's hands and ask him to share my burden. I want to feel his embrace and have him hold me as if I was as a toddler.
"Son, I'm sorry for you. Your mother and I were afraid it was something like this. I wish ... is there something we can do?" His hands ball into fists that are ready to fight.
"You are helping—Mom with the baby, and you here today. Thank you." I look again at his fists. They're poised to strike the winning blow. "Pop ... I wish, too. I wish there was something you could do."
"I watch his hands open and close in vice-like grips. These hands held a bigger man's nose to the grill at Pop's diner when the drunken man harassed my mother. If anyone's hands could smite the evil that lives in Amy, his could. But we both know that her intruder can't be dealt with so simply, and Pop turns away from the sink. I wish he wouldn't hide the tears that well in his eyes. Daddy, please tell me: Is it okay to cry?
"I feel the comfort of his gentle voice. I feel his love and see his sorrow. Though he says no more and veils his passion, I know he deeply feels my pain. I am thankful for this moment, grateful that he's my father. I'm glad that I have invited him into my secret, and I'm moved by the intimacy we both feel, but I wish he would touch me with his hands and make it all go away."