Over the next few weeks, we are very excited to introduce some of our alumni who are making waves in the world of writing. Stay tuned to learn about some budding (or established!) authors who launched their writing careers with their Arts education.
Gary Dvorkin (’73 BA, ’79 MD) is a practicing neurologist in Montréal, Canada. He remembers his BA studies with fondness: “I consider getting my BA at the University of Alberta one of my best decisions I ever made in my life. I took courses in English, history and political science. It left me with a lifelong hunger for culture and knowledge. There is no question that this degree greatly contributed to my being a better, more well-rounded doctor. Every patient is bringing a story to the clinic. And while most peoples’ daily concerns are not dramatic, they are genuine and heartfelt. And they remind us to be grateful, every day.”
Ransom’s Voice (Brown Books Publishing Group, 2016) is a psychological thriller and Dvorkin’s first novel. According to the book’s website, it is “a compelling story of love, betrayal, and reality-shifting anxiety”:
Dominique Stein is beautiful, young, and Jewish. Her sanity is overly dependent on external cues, chameleon-like. She awakens every morning at 5:59:59. She weighs in at exactly 111, her snug palindrome. These are her “friends”. They keep her safe. Then, it all explodes. She desperately searches to find her way back inside that cozy bubble of sanity she had constructed.
Lost, her bearings off and wobbly, her instincts are not functioning. Horrific crimes are committed; not everyone survives. Found not guilty by virtue of temporary insanity, she is sent to a psychiatric prison for women. There she is caught between the kind, serene Freudian analyst, Dr. Haddad, and the head of the institute, the manic, megalomaniacal Dr. du Chevre, who offers her the Faustian contract; be the subject for his secretive, odd research, and he will get her out of prison earlier. Dominique has to navigate her way out of this maze of institutional insanity.
The virtual book tour for Ransom’s Voice begins this week. Read more here about the book tour, as well as a Q & A with Dvorkin.
Read an excerpt from Ransom’s Voice:
Just the simple act of getting this urine-drenched, traumatized child into a department store was harrowing. People stared. Dominique’s head was pounding. She just wanted to escape this nightmare. Cain was too numb to be aware of anything.
Inside the changing room, Dominique did her best to clean Cain with a box of Kleenex the kind saleslady had supplied. Then, they appeared like a new couple—he looking surprisingly dapper in the chic clothes that Dominique had hurriedly chosen for him.
Dominique nervously looked at her watch as she opened the back door of her car to let Cain climb up into his seat. How long had they been away? She could feel the anxiety and anger that Edwin and Suzie were ramping up as they waited for her to bring Cain home.
“Please get in, Cain. We’ve really got to go.”
Cain stood outside the car. “Dominique?”
“What is it?”
“I have something to tell you.”
“Please, Cain, you can tell me inside the car. Get in. Now.”
Cain stood there, unmoving, and, slowly, without making any eye contact with her, took her hand. “Dominique? I want to marry you.” Then, he looked up at her stunned silent face. “Did you hear me? I said I want to marry you!”
Her pain vanished. Someone wanted her—even if he were only five years old. Someone wanted her. Dominique kneeled down, their faces now on the same level.
“Sweetheart,” she began softly, “That’s—that just cannot happen.”
“Cain. I’m a grownup. And you’re a . . . You know, you’re still a young boy. So even if . . . I mean, you’re too young right now to marry anyone! So by the time you’re all grown up and ready to get married, I’m going to be . . . way too old. You’ll want to marry some beautiful woman who is your own age, right? That’s how it works. So. Thank you for that very sweet offer, but really we absolutely have to get going now. OK?”
Her pain vanished. Someone wanted her—even if he were only five years old. –from Ransom’s Voice by Gary Dvorkin
“Dominique, I don’t think you understand!”
“What don’t I understand?”
“You’re . . . you’re . . . her! You are the her! Please! I beg you! Wait for me! I promise I’ll wait for you! I will! Please, Dominique!”
The queue of human experience, eight billion people long, makes its way across the planet. On one extreme, the unbearably sad story of the first person in that line, the person on this earth who has suffered the most, is incomprehensible. The mind recoils, turns away. To truly comprehend their story would risk hearing the irrevocable “snap” of one’s own sanity.
At the exact opposite end of the eight-billion-person line is the happiest, the luckiest person on the Planet Earth. The eyeballs can open and close over and over again to try and take in this polar-opposite reality. Equally, an impossible task.
Lost in the middle, where it swerves from misery into daily unhappiness, is the woman walking away from a proposal of marriage, knowing she will never receive a better offer.
This was now Dominique. She was stunned to find her heart breaking. It felt evacuated, pitted, and hollow. She whispered to Cain, “Please. Get into the car.”