Dark Blossom

Sam returns home from a business trip a day before his son's thirteenth birthday and is looking forward to being with his family, when his world is cruelly shattered in one fell swoop. Initially he thinks he can cope with the loss, but finally seeks the help of Cynthia, an experienced therapist, to regain his equipoise. What he does not know is that Cynthia herself is trying to cope with a debilitating divorce and the sinister shadow of her ex-husband over her daughter...

What happens when doctor and patient find themselves in the same sinking boat? Moreover, when they are rowing in opposite directions--one clinging to the past, and the other unable to get rid of it! In the midst of it all is Lily, Cynthia's daughter, who harbours a secret that has the power to explode the lives around her.

My Review

I liked this book. Mr. Mullick does write a book that draws on human emotion. Yet, I felt the emotion but not as strongly as I wanted. In fact, as I was reading this book, I craved to be wrapped up tightly with the emotions that Sam, Cynthia and her daughter, Lily experienced.

Sam may have went to Cynthia for help but she gained a lot from Sam as well. She may not have "physically" lost her family but she had "emotionally" lost her daughter. Through her relationship helping Sam; she was able to repair and rebuild her relationship with her daughter. Sam found a fresh start as well. He learned that it was ok to move on and still live his life after the tragic lost of his family.

In a way, this book kind of had a poetic vibe to it. It was lovely. This is why I was saddened that I did not enjoy this book more. Mr. Mullick is a storyteller. I would invite readers to check out this book.

Neel Mullick is the author of Dark Blossom. The Head of Product and Information Security at a Belgian family-office technology company, Mullick is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and INSEAD. He mentors female entrepreneurs through the Cherie Blaire Foundation for Women, is involved in raising a generation of digital and socially aware leaders with Nigeria’s Steering for Greatness Foundation, supports improvement in the quality of life of domestic workers through Peru’s Emprendedoras del Hogar, and works with IIMPACT in India to help break the cycle of illiteracy plaguing young girls from socially and economically impoverished communities. Dark Blossom is his first novel.

An excerpt from Dark Blossom by Neel Mullick

In the Same Boat

I love to stroll in the city but, that day, I had to be brisk. I needed to keep the cold out and didn’t want to miss the next train back home. Stepping carefully on the icy pavement, I planned the rest of my day. I still had a couple of patients to see later in the evening, giving me just enough time to prepare dinner for Lily and myself. I went through a mental checklist of the ingredients that would get us through with minimal fuss. Teens...Aargh! What I wouldn’t give for her to be all grown up? Or for me to be that age again?

As I entered the terminal, the aroma of coffee and sugar-steeped bread wafting through the labyrinth of people took my breath away. My fondest memory—that of my father standing near a pillar almost ten meters away and whispering how much he loves me, and my wonder at being able to hear it all the way across the whispering gallery—is another reason the terminal has that effect on me.

With more than forty platforms, it’s the largest station in the world. That almost three-quarters of a million people pass through it every day doesn’t overshadow its incredible history. The backwards Zodiac with 2,500 stars sprawled across the ceiling, the hocus-pocus the Vanderbilts fed the world about the mural being backwards because it was meant to depict god’s view of the universe, and the hole above Pisces serving as a reminder of the rocket that was housed there during the Cold War era—all add to its grandeur. And these are just parts of the opening act of the gala that is Grand Central.

Descending into New York City’s deepest basement to wait for the train to roll in, I looked down at the tracks running side by side. I couldn’t help but think of the parallels between Sam’s life and mine. While he had lost his family to a tragic accident, I had recently lost the veneer of mine to a debilitating divorce from Connor. My own loss was more bearable than his. Moreover, it was of my own making.

Following the tracks and seeing them criss-cross in the distant darkness, I thought of the paradoxes between our lives. While he couldn’t stop thinking of his family because he missed them and wanted them back, I couldn’t stop thinking of Connor because I couldn’t get rid of the sinister shadow he had cast over Lily and me.

I suddenly found myself in the same boat as Sam. And it was my job to keep him afloat. Only, we were rowing in opposite directions.

Settling into a window seat on the train, I thought of how a fatal crash at the turn of the nineteenth century had instigated a thirty-seven-year-old visionary to recommend the extravagant remedy of razing the existing depot to build the engineering marvel that is the Grand Central Terminal. Although I’m a staunch believer in just one life, I could see how in the passing of the old there is the birth of something new.

But not for Sam. My thoughts slipped back to him.

The loss of a loved one is like an amputation for the bereaved. Even though he may transition from anger to acceptance eventually, the phantom pain may never go away. I wanted to write some notes—all I had from our session was numbness in my index finger and thumb from holding the pen too tight.

I rummaged through my handbag for my Sam-notebook. I keep separate notebooks for each of my patients—they’re pocket-sized and each one comes with its own pen. That one was pastel blue with a darker, more vibrant embossing of Antoni Gaudí’s mosaic-dragon from the entrance of Park Güell in Barcelona. And it had a light-green pen nestled in a matching loop. It was distinctively Gaudí, as were most of my notebooks. He is my favorite architect, after my father of course.

Sam was stuck somewhere between denial and anger but much closer to the latter. He said he had gained weight, stopped socializing, and started smoking again. His work was his panacea but he had lost his mojo even for that—something that had never happened before. He had managed to pull himself together for the funeral, but his grief had exacerbated after the family had left.

The tussle between the past and the present—that of living through the experience and venting one’s emotions—is important for moving on. There is no better substitute than mourning—the lesser he mourned, the more difficulty he would have in letting go.

Yet something about our session didn’t add up. It had been a while since the tragedy, yet his memories had been very vivid, almost fresh. That’s not what piqued me though—what did surprise me was how angry he had been at the start of the session and how quickly he had crumbled. I wondered if he had expressed his feelings and shared the painful memories with anyone since the accident, or if our session was the first time he was talking about them. It mattered less for our therapy but more for his well-being that he had others to talk to as well about such intimate details. It was clear he needed to share and express more.

The announcement for Stamford broke my reverie. Even though it had been a somewhat tentative start with Sam, I was happy to be practicing again and knew I could help.

As I tucked away the notebook, my heart went out to him and then turned to Lily. I was filled with gratitude for having her in my life. She’s my pride and my passion. Even the rewards for helping my patients are a distant second to my gratification from nurturing her. She had gone through a lot but the worst was finally over—Connor had moved out and the divorce had come through.

I was almost at our doorstep as I thought—how could I have not seen it? How could my need to preserve the façade of a family have made me so blind to such a monster?

From Dark Blossom by Neel Mullick © 2019 by Neel Mullick.

How I Was Transformed During My Dark Blossom Publishing Journey

By Neel Mullick

Dark Blossom came to my rescue at a time when I was struggling with empathy in my life. My imagination had run amok and created characters that were very different from me but were facing similar yet exaggerated ordeals in their lives. I finally took to the pen when I found myself consumed by the need to crawl under their skins, connect with them empathically, and describe the world the way they were seeing it. To be honest, it wasn’t until I had lost a couple of months and gained almost ten pounds that I realized I was writing a story!

Even though the book is not autobiographical by any stretch of imagination, I did find myself turning to events, experiences, and people from my life for inspiration and it does have bits and pieces of me.

While my characters’ ordeals may be considered dark, my innateness drove me to narrate their stories in an entertaining way. Soon I discovered this to be the salve I needed in my life, because in order to achieve that, I needed a double dose of empathy – for my characters as well as for readers. And it was because of the role of the book in filling that personal void that I decided to donate half my royalties to charity.

I am only beginning to understand that writing and learning are synonymous but perhaps the most significant epiphany has been the realization that a good story takes place at the intersection of personal authenticity and people’s perception. A good story must be borne from a sincere place and telling it in a way that captivates audiences requires understanding how people perceive it viscerally. While the former allowed me to delineate the range of my characters’ expressions, the latter lets readers partake of such expression. While the former can get you to a first draft, it takes brutal honesty with respect to understanding the latter that gets you to a final version.

Given that I had taken to writing in somewhat of a frenzy, I had to subsequently double back for research. This was all the more important because I was not only aspiring to deal with a lot of sensitive topics in a riveting way but also narrating from the perspective of a woman psychologist who was from a cultural background different from mine. I had to both push myself out of my comfort zone and dig very deep within. Other than reading works of fiction as well as non-fiction (including autobiographies) dealing with these sensitive topics, I also had to talk to a lot of psychologists. I needed to understand the subtleties of suffering and how specialists help the human psyche cope with and heal such fractures.

The first draft took me about three months but then came the more arduous process of editing. Even though it took more rounds of editing than I am embarrassed to admit, they were almost evenly paced out over one and a half years. In retrospect, this worked out better for me as well as for the story, because it took me that long to be honest and objective about it.

While readers seem to be enjoying Dark Blossom as a suspenseful psychological thriller, to me it remains a story of love in spite of loss and of empathy in the face of adversity. So it’s even more gratifying when I get an occasional note from a reader telling me not just how much they enjoyed it but also what they took away from the book on love, parenting, and on healing for that matter.

Now that I have crossed the bridge of publishing and am navigating the streets of marketing, I am convinced that, first and foremost, there is no substitute for a good story and great storytelling. And the process that helped me the most in getting there was support from a good and sincere editor – one who has ample experience and few prejudices. To anyone looking to get published, I would strongly recommend subjecting your work to the feedback of such an editor, honestly, before putting your work out there.

Once this critical ingredient is ready, come all the other aspects of publishing the book and then promoting it. Given the many distractions competing for people’s attention these days, it bodes well for authors to think through not only how their story will reach target readers but also how their band will resonate with their audience.

If you do all these things you make the publisher’s job easier. But perhaps more importantly, if success takes time, then being true to this process will give you the confidence and belief to persevere.


Popular posts from this blog

Let's Get Buck Naked!

Don't Say a Word: A Daughter's Two Cents