SPELL BOUND and Processing Grief, a guest post by F. T. Lukens
Grief is weird.
It manifests in different shapes and sizes. It colors aspects of our lives we didn’t think it could touch. It can reemerge after many years, as sharp as it was at first, and it can resolve into a dull pain that’s easier to endure but no less forgotten. People say it’s a process. People also say time heals all wounds, and it’s true that time and distance can blunt the jagged ache of losing someone. But sometimes a song or a smell or the way a person speaks or a breeze on a hot day can prompt a memory of a person or a place that is gone. And it can come out of nowhere and settle into your chest and remind you of the impermanence of things.
I’ve said that Spell Bound is my most personal book to date, and that’s true in a number of ways – the themes of gatekeeping, the different facets of personality I share with the characters, the journeys toward self-love and self-acceptance. All things I could’ve written about for this article, but there is also an underlying theme of coping with grief and loss that is also quietly present.
I wanted to bring it to the forefront because I’m living it right now.
In the book, one of the main characters, Rook, has lost his grandmother who was his sole caregiver. With her loss, he also loses the home he grew up in and his connection to the magical community. At the beginning of the novel, it’s only been a year since his grandmother has passed, and he’s obviously still grieving. He misses the world he was removed from, and he does everything he can to get back to that world, including building an illegal device that detects magic. He’s driven but it’s not really by ambition. It’s by grief. Fortunately, by the end of the book, he makes connections and finds a family. It’s a different family from what he had before, but it’s no less as important and loving. And with the support of this family, he’ll be able to manage the feelings surrounding his loss, finally cope with the situation that led him to his mentor’s office in the first place.
When I was writing this book, my father had passed away from esophageal cancer less than two years prior. At the time I’m writing this, my mother has passed away only six weeks ago from complications of ALS. I find myself not only grieving the loss of my mom but also the loss of ties to where I grew up. It’s a strange feeling to be disconnected from the place that has been ‘home’ in my mind for so long. It’s unnerving. I feel unmoored and a little bit lost.
I feel exactly like Rook did, yearning for a tether to the place I used to call home.
I moved away from the Tidewater area of Virginia almost twenty years ago. I’ve made a life in Western North Carolina with my spouse and children and the friends I have here. But in my mind, home is the quiet street where I rode my bike the short distance between my grandmother’s house and my parent’s. It’s the acre of front yard where I ran barefoot and the brick front walk that led to my grandma’s porch and the tree on the side of the house that had the best branches to climb. It’s the muggy air, and the smell of fresh cut grass from my mom on her tractor, or the sound of the brackish creek as my dad’s boat motors cut through the water on our way out to the river to fish.
After I left, the vacations I took were to visit my parents and return to the place where I grew up, showing my own children the sights and sounds of my childhood.
But that connection is gone now.
The last time I was there a week ago, I was with my brother, who has also moved out of state, and we had to look through and catalogue my mother’s belongings. The house I grew up in has fallen into disrepair, the rooms where I played as a child unsafe to enter. And when I walked into my grandmother’s home, it unexpectedly hurt that the smell of cigarette smoke and camelia flowers wasn’t there to greet me and neither was her ever-present black cat. My grandma and her many black cats have been gone for decades, but it was unnerving none the less that the picture I held in my mind was so starkly different than the reality.
It was a shock to realize that the places and people so dear to me now only exist in my memory.
I’m fortunate to have my siblings who shared many of the same life experiences on that street. And I’m glad to have my family here in WNC and my friends who are supporting me while I grieve. And I’m lucky enough to have a few physical mementos from those who have passed – a table my grandfather crafted, a pair of porcelain figurines from my grandma, a model train set from my dad, a wood desk from my mother, and my mamaw’s wedding ring.
Rook has his renewed connection to magic and his new friends. He also has his grandmother’s spell book.
But the physical objects we possess from the people we loved, while nice to have, pale in comparison to receiving a hug from any of them. And what I wouldn’t give to pet my grandma’s cat and sit at her feet while she watches Jeopardy or set up model trains in the floor of the living room with my dad or play softball in the front field with my mom.
I’m sure Rook would agree that he would cherish one last time chasing conjured butterflies.
While we both have our support systems in place, and we have our keepsakes and our memories, grief is weird. It’s hard. It’s a process.
It’ll take time.
Meet the author
F. T. Lukens is a New York Times bestselling author of YA speculative fiction including the novels So This Is Ever After and In Deeper Waters (2022 ALA Rainbow Booklist; Junior Library Guild Selection) as well as other science fiction and fantasy works. Their contemporary fantasy novel The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic was a 2017 Cybils Award finalist in YA Speculative Fiction and the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Gold Winner for YA fiction and won the Bisexual Book Award for Speculative Fiction. F.T. resides in North Carolina with their spouse, three kids, three dogs, and three cats.
About Spell Bound
Two rival apprentice sorcerers must team up to save their teachers and protect their own magic in this lively young adult romantic adventure from the New York Times bestselling author of In Deeper Waters and So This Is Ever After.
Edison Rooker isn’t sure what to expect when he enters the office of Antonia Hex, the powerful sorceress who runs a call center for magical emergencies. He doesn’t have much experience with hexes or curses. Heck, he doesn’t even have magic. But he does have a plan—to regain the access to the magical world he lost when his grandmother passed.
Antonia is…intimidating, but she gives him a job and a new name—Rook—both of which he’s happy to accept. Now all Rook has to do is keep his Spell Binder, an illegal magical detection device, hidden from the Magical Consortium. And contend with Sun, the grumpy and annoyingly cute apprentice to Antonia’s rival colleague, Fable. But dealing with competition isn’t so bad; as Sun seems to pop up more and more, Rook minds less and less.
But when the Consortium gets wind of Rook’s Spell Binder, they come for Antonia. All alone, Rook runs to the only other magical person he knows: Sun. Except Fable has also been attacked, and now Rook and Sun have no choice but to work together to get their mentors back…or face losing their magic forever.
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date: 04/04/2023
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
SLJ Blog Network