Over my course of following the creative output of J. Michael Straczynski, one of his strengths has been the creation of diverse characters who form a connection with his audience. So, the highest compliment I can pay his latest offering Together We Will Go is that it continues that trend in the best possible way.
After suffering the latest in a long string of rejections, writer Mark has landed on his next project — an epistolary tale of a dozen strangers who have decided for one reason or another to end their lives. Renting a bus, Mark places an online ad to find people to join him on his final journey across the United States, planning to culminate the trip by everyone driving off a cliff near San Francisco. Riders earn their spot by agreeing to upload journal entries to a central server and occasionally having the audio transcript of dramatic moments archived and uploaded.
What Mark doesn’t count on is the diverse group of people who will join his cross-country trek and the ways various personalities connect and clash. He also didn’t count on the authorities in some of the states he’s crossing having an issue with a group of people on their way to commit suicide.
As with the best work of JMS, Together Will We Go is an unflinching examination of a “big idea.” In this case, it’s a frank examination of suicide and assisted suicide, brought into stark reality by the epistolary nature of the novel. Whether it’s emails, text exchanges, journal entries, or audio transcripts, JMS creates a bond between the characters and the readers — to the point that as we get close to the nearer the final destination, I found myself wondering if I had the strength to keep going with these characters to the final end.
This book is bleak, dark, and full of things that could and should depress you. But like life, it’s also filled with an abundance of hope and kindness, even when things are looking the bleakest. I found myself having a complex relationship with these characters — loving some one minute, only to hate them the next, to not understanding their decisions the next. I found the book haunting, vexing, and utterly compelling. Once again, JMS has more than delivered upon a promise –and then some.
This one will probably end up on the top books I’ve read in 2021. I know it’s one that has lingered with me long past the final page.
I will say this one may not be for everyone. But if you’re up for it, it’s well worth your time.
I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.