Friday, October 24, 2008

Room For Two: Abel Keogh Responds

You all remember my latest book review, right? Room For Two by Abel Keogh? Well, Mr. Keogh got wind of my review and took the time to respond! Here is the email he sent me:

Hi Laura,

I’m an occasional reader of A Motley Vision as was surprised to see a link to your review of my book, Room for Two, on your other blog. After reading your review, I thought I’d offer some clarification as to the purpose and message of the book.

I’m not “horrified” you had the reaction you did to Room for Two. I actually received a lot of comments on the depression issue from readers – usually from people who have some degree of depression themselves. Like you, they feel that scene with Julie on the mountain perpetuated some misconceptions about antidepressants. The purpose of that scene wasn’t to preach one way or the other about medication but to show that I loved Julie enough to move forward with the relationship even though that meant dealing with an issue that I had dealt with before.

"A memory of Krista flashed through my mind. She was having one of her bad days and telling me that there was no hope for anyone and that we were all going to die. The look in her eyes was dark and dreadful.

"Though I doubted Julianna’s depression would lead to any dark episodes like I experienced with Krista, it was enough to make me pause and wonder if it was something I was willing to live with….

"I looked at the ground....Krista’s dark days had been difficult. There was no guarantee that Julianna wouldn’t act similar or that one day she could wake up and her depression would be much worse. I had to decide if this was something I could live with. It was tempting to simply give up and find someone who did have depression. I’d been through a lot. Who would blame me if I decided to throw in the towel?

"Then my mind went back to Krista. Despite those hard days, I never thought once about giving up on her. I wanted to see her through those hard times because I loved her. She had meant more to me than anyone else and I was willing to be help no matter how bad the situation became. And in that moment I realized it didn’t matter if Julianna would have good days or bad. She was trying her best to work through her depression, and I was willing to take a chance and love her not matter what lay ahead." (p. 165-166)

My comments about antidepressants weren’t intended to perpetuate stereotypes about medication or those who are on them. In context, Julie’s approach contrasted with the approach Krista and her family generally took. I was just happy she was trying to do something other than medication to fight it.

Early drafts of the manuscript actually dealt with the depression issue quite a bit. I cut them out however because after feedback from editors and others I showed the manuscript to before shopping it to publishers felt it slowed down the pace of the story and detracted from the story I was trying to tell – one of putting a shattered life back together. I have no regrets about cutting that material.

I’m not against depression medication. I think it does wonders for a lot of people – especially for those who are severely depressed. However, I also believe, like you, it’s a mix of approaches (e.g., exercise and medication) than just one approach alone that usually works the best. However, I also believe it overprescribed by doctors to a lot of mildly depressed people (those who are in no way suicidal but simply feel blue occasionally) who simply prescribe antidepressants to patients instead of trying to make changes to their life (exercising, getting out of a bad relationship, changing jobs, taking a vacation etc.) to see if that helps before taking medication.

Finally, I didn’t link Krista’s death to depression because no one knows what actually pushed her over the edge. There were signs in the weeks before she died that she may have been schizophrenic or bi-polar. There were probably a lot of factors contributed to her death and, as I wrote the book, I felt it wouldn’t be right to pin her suicide on depression or anything else when no one could prove as to why she put the gun to her head in the first place.

I will admit, however, I was surprised you thought I should focus on the storm clouds more. The feedback I generally receive from LDS readers is that the book was too dark, heavy, and depressing for them. Non-LDS readers generally feel the books strikes a good balance. But this is my “reader feedback” basis kicking in. :-)

I want to thank Abel for responding and for letting me post his email. I also nosed around his site,, a little more and came across his letter to Elizabeth and found it quite moving. The other writing on his site was worth checking out.


Kelly said...

Wow, It was nice of Abel Keogh to read your review and respond. It is hard for me to imagine going through the things he went through, and I'm grateful he took the time to write about his experience.

abel said...

Thanks for posting my response, Laura.