When I let the first few people read a draft of my latest book, Sisters: The Karma Twist, everyone just assumed that I was Sarah McCall (the main character). I actually work pretty hard not to allow my characters to be me. I change their hair color; I give them different jobs and interests. I understand that my voice comes through though, and it’s a good thing that it does.
But Sarah isn’t me. Sure, there are things that happen to Sarah that happened to me. I lost my younger sister to suicide. I was a college student when it happened. But there are many more things that happened to Sarah that didn’t occur in my life. Many of these situations and incidents came via the stories I’ve heard from people around the world, mainly from other sibling survivors of suicide. Sarah’s struggle with her surviving family members was not like my experience at all, but I’ve listened to countless stories of how families changed after a suicide. Sadly, some never come back together despite the strength they could find in helping each other (the impetus for my book, Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief).
Another important aspect for Karma Twist was to tell the story of how Sarah’s romantic relationships, at age twenty-one, when people are starting to think about pairing up for marriage and family, are altered. A good portion of the book focuses on the difficulty Sarah faces as she struggles with her fear that any boyfriend will abandon her as she felt Jenna (her sister) did when she died. They had plans together, plans that Sarah found she couldn’t follow through with after Jenna’s suicide. She expected Jenna to be there for all the life events they both still had yet to experience: graduations, boyfriends, careers, families. When Jenna died, Sarah wasn’t sure she could face any of them without her sister.
But the key part of the story is the question of what’s called a “soul agreement.” Some believe that we make pacts with souls (who become people in our lives), before we enter ours, to help us to advance our souls, and theirs. The book opens with Sarah at a party being told by a psychic that she and Jenna had a pre-birth agreement. While Sarah isn’t quite aware of it, she spends much of the book trying to understand if an agreement was truly possible and how she was supposed to fulfill her part of it.
My intention was never for Sarah McCall to be me. Instead, writing The Karma Twist was about telling a story that often isn’t told: the reality of sibling suicide grief and the possibilities that lie beyond where we stand in the here and now.
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D., is an international author and speaker about finding hope after loss and change. She is the author of several books including Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief and Ginger's Gift: Hope and Healing Through Dog Companionship. Her first book, based on the suicide of her younger sister Denise, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She is the President of the American Association of Suicidology and lives in Albuquerque, N.M. Read more about Michelle at www.michellelinngust.com.