Every journey begins with a tale we tell ourselves: that it will be better on the other side—the other side of the door, the other side of the fence, the other side of the planet. Sometimes, it is true.
All too often, it is not.
I write books about young people, mostly teenagers. Some of my books are mysteries, some are romantic comedies, some are science fiction, and some don’t fit neatly into any genre. But all of them concern the perilous journey we all must make from adolescence into adulthood, a journey we all make with trepidation, with hope, and without recourse.
In Eden West, Jacob Grace believes that he will soon be making the ultimate journey from Nodd—the fenced, twelve-square-mile Montana compound where he has lived most of his seventeen years—to Paradise. One day soon, he believes, the archangel Zerachiel will descend upon Nodd from the heavens in a great Ark to carry away the Faithful. Everyone else will perish in a fiery Apocalypse.
We all believe things that may or may not be true: tomorrow it will rain, MSG causes migraines, Coke tastes better than Pepsi, this hat makes me look cool. Often we are wrong, and it’s no big deal.
But some false beliefs, particularly those rooted in religious or political dogma, can be more difficult to live with. Still, somehow, we muddle through. For example, in any large hospital you may find doctors who are Christian, Muslim, Mormon, atheist, Jewish, Hindu, or who knows? All of them made it through medical school, and every one may be an excellent physician—despite the fact that at least some of them must be dead wrong about the true nature of the universe.
I love that about people. You can believe in fairies, you can believe the Earth is flat, you can worship the goat god Xangool—and yet still be a remarkable, ethical, productive person. We humans are amazingly good at fitting our idiosyncratic worldviews into the real world.
In Eden West, Jacob and his people believe that the End Days are coming, and that those who inhabit the outside world are wicked and doomed. Still, they have a stable society. They are self-sufficient, they love their children, they love the land, and they are reasonably content…until the outside comes to Nodd in the form of two teenagers who bring with them their radically different and highly infectious worldviews.
Eden West is the story of a people, of a land, and of a fence. It is a story of lust, of love, of hope, and of the power of faith. It is the story of one boy’s journey from childhood to this other place we call adulthood. Will it be better on the other side?
Maybe it will. The only way to know is to go there.