Sunday, November 28, 2021

"The Night of Many Endings"

Melissa Payne is the bestselling, award-winning author of The Secrets of Lost Stones and Memories in the Drift. For as long as she can remember, Payne has been telling stories in one form or another—from high school newspaper articles to a graduate thesis to blogging about marriage and motherhood. But she first learned the real importance of storytelling when she worked for a residential and day treatment center for abused and neglected children. There she wrote speeches and letters to raise funds for the children. The truth in those stories was piercing and painful and written to invoke a call to action in the reader: to give, to help, to make a difference. Payne’s love of writing and sharing stories in all forms has endured. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her husband and three children, a friendly mutt, a very loud cat, and the occasional bear.

Payne applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Night of Many Endings, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I think this man has overdosed.” Her teeth chattered while she spoke, making her words come out in fits and starts. “We need to lay him all the way onto his back.”

Vlado did just that and Nora was grateful to not be alone anymore, even if it was with someone who knew less than she did about how to save someone from an overdose. The class had been helpful, but it had also been calm and relaxed, nothing like reality. In reality, it was the hard grass biting into her knees, the stink of a trash bag split open by her side, the screeching cries of her aunt, and the splashes of ambulance lights across her brother’s zombie face.

She fumbled with the package, the tiny edge of plastic slipping from between her wet fingers until she cried out with frustration. “Damn it!”

Vlado took the box, opened it, pulled out the device, and without a word, handed it back to her.

She fit it into her hand, thumb on the plunger, two fingers on either side of the nozzle that wobbled in the air with a shaking that skittered through her muscles. She didn’t want this man to die. Not when she could do something to save him. Why was he here, near death and alone? Did he have a wife who cried for him? A son? Did they scour the streets like she did, feel the futility of searching for one person in the widening hole inside their chests? She would not let him die, but she was terrified that she was too late.

She slid one hand under his neck to tilt his head up, inserted the nozzle into his left nostril until her fingers touched his nose; then she pushed the plunger.
When I flipped to page 69 of The Night of Many Endings, it was interesting to discover what was unfolding in that particular moment. Would it be a pivotal scene between Nora, the kind librarian and Marlene, the elderly woman who sees the worst in most people? Or would it be about Lewis, the homeless addict who has come back to Silver Ridge to see his granddaughter one more time before he dies? Or would we meet Jasmine, the teenage girl with a secret? Or Vlado, the security guard who’s more interested in books and who loves Nora from afar?

In some ways, the scene on page 69 encapsulates the heart of this story. In this scene, Nora has discovered Lewis overdosed outside the library during an epic winter storm and administers a nasal spray that can reverse an overdose. Despite the fact that he is homeless and an addict, Nora sees Lewis as human first. She wonders about the people who love him, his wife, his kids, if they’ve searched for him the way she’s searched for her own drug-addicted brother. Nora wants to know Lewis’s story.

And that is the central theme to The Night of Many Endings; the only way we can truly understand or know someone is to learn their story first. During the night stranded together, each of these five characters learn about each other and in turn, find themselves changed because of it.
Visit Melissa Payne's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Melissa Payne & Max.

My Book, The Movie: The Secrets of Lost Stones.

The Page 69 Test: The Secrets of Lost Stones.

Q&A with Melissa Payne.

--Marshal Zeringue