Broken People by Sam Lansky
English | 2020 | General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 3.0 MB
A groundbreaking, incandescent debut novel about coming to grips with the past and ourselves, for fans of Sally Rooney, Hanya Yanagihara and Garth Greenwell
“He fixes everything that’s wrong with you in three days.”
This is what hooks Sam when he first overhears it at a fancy dinner party in the Hollywood hills: the story of a globe-trotting shaman who claims to perform “open-soul surgery” on emotionally damaged people. For neurotic, depressed Sam, new to Los Angeles after his life in New York imploded, the possibility of total transformation is utterly tantalizing. He’s desperate for something to believe in, and the shaman-who promises ancient rituals, plant medicine and encounters with the divine-seems convincing, enough for Sam to sign up for a weekend under his care.
But are the great spirits the shaman says he’s summoning real at all? Or are the ghosts in Sam’s memory more powerful than any magic?
At turns tender and acid, funny and wise, Broken People is a journey into the nature of truth and fiction-a story of discovering hope amid cynicism, intimacy within chaos and peace in our own skin.
The second sign came the very next morning, when Sam awakened to find something unusual in his bedroom.
The window by his bed, slatted and casement-style, with a rusty old crank that groaned when he turned it, had been open all through the mild Los Angeles winter, which had allowed the bougainvillea that crept up the facade of his apartment building to wrap its tendrils around the narrow glass panes. This produced the illusion of waking up each morning in a garden, the floor littered with a few pale pink petals. Some months earlier he’d opened the window to let a little fresh air in and had just never closed it. He liked feeling both outdoors and in, liked the smells of lavender and smoke that drifted into the room.
But now there was something in his room, a form furiously beating its wings and slapping against his window from the inside. When Sam first stirred, disoriented and still half asleep, he wasn’t sure what it was, but he could see its frantic motions. Was it an enormous flying cockroach? Were those a thing in California?
Yet when he sat up, reaching for his glasses, he realized it wasn’t an insect at all. It was a hummingbird, iridescent blue with a long pincerlike beak. She was frightened, insensibly smacking against the glass and bougainvillea with startling force. It would not have shocked Sam if the window frame had cracked from the thrust of her movements. She was just an inch or so from the opening in the window, but the spiny fingers of the bougainvillea’s vines and leaves had obscured her exit route, leaving her trapped.
Sam moved closer to her and her movements grew more panicked. He reached out with one hand as if to whisk her outside, but she flew out into the room, circling frantically over his bed, then making a run for the other window, which was closed. She whipped against the glass helplessly, urgently, as if possessed.
Him being there was probably just stressing her out more, Sam thought. Maybe if he left the room, she would find her way outside. This was how he preferred to deal with most problems—ignore it and hope it goes away on its own.
He backed out into the hallway, closing the door so he could no longer hear that frenzied slapping noise. In his living room, Sam caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. His close-cropped brown hair was pushed to one side from sleeping with his head buried in the pillow, and his face was ruddy. He walked closer to the mirror and studied his reflection as he did so many times a day, pushing out his belly and sucking it back in again so his rib cage protruded over his stomach, pulling at the flesh around his midsection, as if the motion might shrink it.