Mark Reads ‘A Wizard Alone’: Chapter 4, Part I

In the first half of the fourth chapter of A Wizard Alone, MY FEELINGS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.

Trigger Warning: For talk of grief/death, depression. 

Whew, this is a difficult one. I admire how direct much of this was; it’s not easy to talk about or to write grief that lingers and consumes. People want their grief easy to package and define, categorizable and neat. They want people to be sad for a bit, and then bounce back with resilience. But what if you don’t? What does it feel like when that sadness sticks around, when it starts to affect your day in negative ways, when that creates a snowball effect until you end up just like Dairine, unwilling and unable to just get out of bed each day?

Depression is messy, point blank. Anyone who tells you otherwise might experience it differently, but I’ve never met anyone for whom depression was an easy thing. Oh, it manifests in all of us in different ways and for different reasons. Until Nita’s mother died, I don’t think she ever had depression, and I’m guessing that this is one reason why this is so difficult for her. See, I’ve had depression since I was a kid, and while I really, really need to see a therapist regularly, I have taken care of it myself. Not in the healthiest of ways, mind you, but I can make it through the day when I’m in the midst of a crushing episode. Having my own business has helped motivate me  when things get real rough because guess what BILLS HAVE TO BE PAID AND THEY DON’T WAIT FOR MY DEPRESSION.

Obviously that is a real shitty coping mechanism, but hey! I have only been able to afford therapy once in my life, so I’ve had to rely on self-care to keep my sanity on a plateau. There’s a part of me, then, that is just thrilled that Nita has someone to talk to who isn’t connected to all of this, someone who can give her perspective, advice, and get her to talk about things she can’t with other people. Sometimes, when I’m deep in an episode, I find that talking to people I know and love is actually the hardest. What if they’re judging me? What if I’m burdening them by relying on them too much for emotional support? What if I’m too vulnerable?

And really, that’s the word I kept coming back to as I read Nita’s POV section at the start of this chapter: every single person in the Callahan family is so vulnerable right now. Nita’s father can’t bare to wake up on his own anymore, so Nita has taken to doing that for him. Dairine often refuses to take part in her day, staying home in bed. And what of Nita, who does a lot of the emotional labor to help out her younger sister and her father? She’s raw around the edges in this chapter, and it ached me to see this. It’s like she’s felt so much in the past month or so that all her nerve endings are frayed and torn. So what does she feel instead?

A perpetual numbness. A sense that, as she put it:

…there was some kind of thick skin between her and the world, muffling the way she knew she ought to feel about things… and she didn’t know what to do to get rid of it.

THIS IS SO REAL, Y’ALL. It’s genuine and believable, and that’s not an easy thing to pull off by any means.  Everything here is uncomfortable, painful, and yet Duane never gets so bogged down in it that we feel hopeless. Sad, yes, but not impossible. Mr. Millman is a force for some of that positivity, but he doesn’t come off as cheesy here. I’m hoping we’ll see more of him later in the book, too, because I enjoyed the scene he shared with Nita.

Let’s also discuss the other big conversation in the first half of this chapter. I know I’m being a bit repetitive here, but I can’t get enough of Kit’s relationship with his parents. His mother experiences one of the more heartbreaking moments of this whole series: Ponch’s mournful howling over what Darryl is going through. It’s a gut punch for sure, especially since we’ve never seen Ponch react like this before. Yet I was more drawn in by how real Kit’s mother felt as she asked him about the dangers of wizardry. I got a real sense of who she is as a mother. Her concerns are rooted in her fear that she doesn’t truly understand what her son does and that if she did, she wouldn’t like what she learned.

Take the story he tells her about the Spinies. It’s more or less about a child wizard dying in service to a species that normally ate creatures like her. Her initial takeaway is age: Why are kids offered wizardry so young if they can’t fully understand what it means to be a wizard? How can they comprehend that they might die young when death doesn’t mean the same thing as it does to an adult?

I loved Kit’s answer. Because maybe he really didn’t know what he was getting into, but you know what? He understands it now, and he still wants to be a wizard. The risks and the threats haven’t changed that desire in him. And she gets it! She understands why her son is risking his life for people all over the universe.

That’s a pretty cool thing, y’all.

Mark Links Stuff

I am now on Patreon! There are various levels of support, from $1 up to whatever you want! You’ll get to read a private blog, extra reviews, and other such rewards. I POST A LOT OF CUTE PHOTOS, OKAY. Think of it like a private Tumblr blog that only SPECIAL PEOPLE get to read.
– I have updated my list of conventions and events for the remainder of the year and much of next year.  Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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