Detroit Muscle, A Novel
This morning I went to the gym. The only thing on my mind as I stepped on the treadmill was whether or not my weigh-in would go well. Then, as I ran, I looked up at the wall of televisions suspended from the ceiling in front of me. All of them were broadcasting various news stations, and there was very little good news. The Zika virus is getting worse. A plane crash in Egypt. Then, there was something about a looming super bug that won’t be able to be treated with any antibiotic.
Whoa… suddenly I wasn’t that concerned about my weigh-in. I felt alone and more than a little fearful. Glancing to my right, I noticed a man with his ears plugged up with headphones. He stared into the console of his treadmill, watching the digital counting up of his minutes spent exercising. On my left, two women were walking. One was consumed by an e-reader while the other texted on her phone. In fact, everyone in the gym was occupied with some kind of technology.
My first thought? No wonder young people and teens are so allured by the world of drugs.
What I was experiencing is a perfect metaphor for how our young people live. First, running on a treadmill, working hard, but seemingly going nowhere. It’s what they hear: there are no jobs. College guarantees nothing. In four years, your degree will be obsolete. But, keep working as hard as you can! Couple that with the daily bombardment of terrifying news: terrorism, lead in the water, political unrest, random shootings, etc. Teens today can’t escape the news; they drown in it on social media. And, then, finally, who is there to talk to or take solace in? Everyone is so busy. They are glued to their electronics. Much of friendship is reduced to a “like” on a status update. Even parents are too busy in their own lives, in their own electronics. Teens feel hopeless. They feel afraid. They feel alone.
Enter drugs. Enter ignorance to the dangers of addiction. Enter an escape that feels better than anything their day-to-day life has to offer.
I suppose that’s what I had in mind when I started my novel, Detroit Muscle. As I get older, the characters in my books keep getting younger. I teach at a community college, so I am exposed to young people all the time. Plus, my own kids are teenagers: 17 and 14. The conflicted world of the young simply interests me more. And so, I wrote of Robby Cooper, a 20-year-old Oxycontin addict just out of rehab, trying to put his life back together in Michigan. He wants to make amends with the people he has hurt through his addiction. More so, he wants to feel good about himself; he wants purpose; he wants redemption.
Ken Meisel, LMSW, said of the book, “Vande Zande does not shy away from the pain, loneliness, and anguish that exists in every addiction. All healing from addiction and self-estrangement involves an intimate re-engagement with one’s purpose, which cannot be accessed unless we address how we have fallen off course…”
Robby is forced to face the ways in which he has fallen off course. He also comes face-to-face with the history of addiction in his family: both alcoholism and sexual addiction.
In the end, I wanted to write a book about a young person triumphing over addiction. I wanted the novel to offer hope. I wanted it to celebrate the will that can be mustered in individuals to change their lives.