Mind the Gap
by Thomas Maurstad
Genre: Literary Fiction / Political
Print Length: 362 pages
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Reviewed by Melissa Suggitt
An intelligently written, character-driven drama
Ellis Presley and Justin Mayhaps are stuck: one in anger, one in grief. What they don’t know is they are on the precipice of change and their lives are on a collision course. Told in alternating narratives, we get a front row seat to their parallel journeys as they careen toward each other and the rest of their lives.
Ellis, a member of an artists’ co-op ACME, is suddenly having a moment. Her music career is taking off. An invitation to play South by Southwest looks like it could be her big break. Views and the buzz around her online videos increases by the day. And yet she doesn’t care about it.
Stuck in her anger for the childhood that was robbed from her, she can’t find a way to step forward into her success with anything less than fear and apathy. Fully believing it’s a team effort of the co-op and gutted that they’re all breaking up to take on new opportunities, she retreats further into sullenness and anger.
Justin is a marketing consultant guru, a man whose life takes an upward swing when the mysterious Jay Johnstone offers him a new career opportunity, one that would open doors unheard of to him. He still struggles with the loss of his wife nearly two years prior and has been unable to completely escape his grief and the guilt that burns him from surviving the accident that took her life.
As he begins to work with Jay, his path begins to speed toward Ellis, and he’s faced with a decision: forgive himself and move forward, or remain trapped in his past?
Set against the backdrop of South by Southwest and a burgeoning social movement akin to the Occupy Wall Street movement named “eXit,” Mind The Gap bridges a younger generation’s desire for societal change and a new way of life with the journey of personal growth.
Author Thomas Maurstad has contrived two characters who are both incredibly infuriating and endearing at once. More than a few times I wanted to shake Ellis out of her excessive humbleness, yet her vulnerability tugs my heartstrings so hard I wanted to dive into the page and comfort her myself. Justin is equal parts arrogant, introspective, and in tune with his own mental health in a way that is rarely displayed. Maurstad writes such grounded, balanced characters that the reader has no choice but to be invested in their stories.
The expertly crafted tension between these two narratives kept me flipping pages furiously to see how their lives would intertwine. From the first chapter, Maurstad keeps his audience absolutely enthralled. How will they meet?
It’s not easy to write a piece that has political, economical, and artistic undertones that still feels deeply personal. Maurstad has achieved that and more with the way Mind the Gap weaves together its themes with its story and its deep message that “every choice we make is a commitment.” Justin must choose to move on from his grief. Ellis must choose to accept her success. You must choose to pick up this book.
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