Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Daphne by Will Boast: Fleeing from Passion

When thirteen-year-old Daphne was reading The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy she was overcome with the wild passion of teenage imagination; first a buzzing sensation lit her body and then she dropped the book and was unable to move.

It happened, too, with sudden noises, fear, or strong emotions. She hid her affliction as best she could, for Dr. Bell's infinite tests brought no cure, only an unwelcome explanation: an autoimmune disorder had attacked part of her brain.

Daphne became an expert in tightly controlling her life--no unexpected jolts allowed, no passion--just routine, and her mantra and calming images to ward off the attacks that left her immobile and vulnerable.

Until into her life came a man, sweet and kind and patient. But can Daphne allow him into her life?

I read this short novel in a day. The inspiration is the myth of Daphne, a nymph pursed by Apollo who was saved from his lust when the river god turned her into the Laurel tree.

Apollo and Daphne by Bernini
Daphne grapples with numerous challenges along with her disability. Her father died when she was only five. Her mother has finally met a man and is ready to move on with her life. Daphne feels responsibility to her support group members, her childhood best friend who takes big risks for business contacts, and to her staff at her job in a lab which uses dogs as test subjects studies in longevity. She tries to keep boundaries up and yet she would also like to free the dogs.

When life seems too much to bear, she considers her options. Should she, like her support group friend, end it all? Return home, vanquished, admitting she failed at having a life of her own? Or accept that no one is perfect?

Daphne by Will Boast is a beautifully written book that caught me by surprise. I understood Daphne's weariness at being 'different', having grown up with a mother with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis; Mom once asked me if I had been ashamed of her. For all the pain and isolation of Daphne's life, the disappointment that no one can ever really understand her reality, she is resilient.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Daphne: A Novel
by Will Boast
W. W. Norton & Company
Liveright Publishing
Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018
Hardcover $25.95
ISBN: 9781631493034