A Journey Through Time and Mind

Book Review

[Kaye, Alysha (2014): The Waiting Room: Published by Alysha Kaye


As I entered the narrative of Alysha Kaye’s The Waiting Room, I was immediately transported to my first viewing of Bruce Jay Friedman’s Steambath, with Tandy’s puzzlement and questions that develop throughout the play of why and how he ended up in a strange steamy room in the first place. And then there were those crazy doors, through which people exited to – well, who knows where? Similar to the ominous steam room in Friedman’s play, in Kaye’s novel people seemed to pop up and appear at a mysterious airport terminal. Likewise, the nonlinear structure of Kaye’s novel was reminiscent of Billy Pilgrim’s experience of coming “unstuck in time”, from Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. But the similarities stop there. Alysha Kaye reveals in an interview that her inspiration for her novel came about due to a dream about an airport terminal. So rather than Tandy’s steam bath, Jude finds himself in an airport terminal waiting room, watching people appear and vanish, again through those mind bending side doors that lead us to ponder the destiny of those whose names are called to take their exit. With Friedman and Vonnegut, our questions about life were immersed in the experience of the absurd. But with The Waiting Room, our  hopes rest on a human quest of love, purpose, and meaning.

Love Stories & Philosophical Questions

People might look at me in a quizzical tone when I say romantic love stories can indeed embark upon important philosophical excursions. But why so? We have witnessed such literature from Tess d’urbervilles to The Unbearable Lightness of Being. And does not love itself open up all sorts of questions about our humanity, and, indeed, our raison d’être? Life, death, afterlife, identity, the existence of God, all come under discussion and scrutiny in The Waiting Room. And then there’s the ever-present haunting question: Do the strong passions people feel for living and for others truly matter in determining their destiny? The novel is indeed a journey through time and mindparticularly through the minds of Jude and Nina – and thereby a journey through our own minds as we reflect on the questions raised by these characters through their experiences. And then there is Ruth. Who is this character who appears as an anchor throughout the narrative, and what does she represent? For those readers who enjoy a work written in modernist tones, yet reflecting on traditional human questions, Kaye’s novel will be an enjoyable read indeed. Personally, I enjoy a short-story, novel, or movie that tells its tale in an unusual way. The Waiting Room, for sure, does that. As stated, its nonlinear use of narrative and the mysterious use of setting in the form of an airport terminal as a portal through time establish its mystical-realistic tone. Characters morph in front of our reading eyes, as does the narrative structure that drifts from prose to poetry, as in the exchanges between Alondra and Rosalio. The Waiting Room takes readers on a journey through a unique and creative style.

A Word about Self-Publishing

Recently, I read in another blog that Alysha had been looking at the possibility of having a publisher pick her her novel, but she decided to stay the independent route. Although I would say to anyonedo what is best for you to make a living in this crazy world of writing and publishing, I want to give a hardy hurrah for her decision. I thoroughly believe the future belongs to more independent self-publishers, or at least to those who take avenues counter to traditional publishing houses. I picked up my copy of The Waiting Room here in Austin at Book People. The internet, self-publishing, and alternative ways of getting people’s work out belong to this digital age. And I firmly believe it’s where cutting-edge works will come from, given that many publishing houses prefer formulas, not wanting to take risks. Likewise, even with a publishing house, unless a writer is well-known and popular already, writers still have to do their own marketing. So for sure, order your copy of The Waiting Room online, or find those places where you live that support independent writers and purchase a copy there. And spread the word about this enjoyable read.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/September 14, 2014

THE ARTS: Literature/Book Review