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MPR News

Patrick Nathan's novel 'Some Hell' and the loneliness of grief

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Author Patrick Nathan.
Author Patrick Nathan.
Michael O'Laughlin | Submitted

Colin, the protagonist in Patrick Nathan's novel "Some Hell," seems to have the world on his shoulders. Within the first pages of the book, Colin's father dies by suicide. Around that same time, Colin's autistic brother is lashing out, as is his older sister. Colin worries he is at fault for his father's death and meanwhile, his feelings for his best friend, Andy, are tormenting him.

"Some Hell" written by Patrick Nathan.
"Some Hell" written by Patrick Nathan.
Courtesy of publisher

"There was too much to worry about, his worry itself a growing thing — an infected organ inflamed and toxic," Nathan writes. 

"Some Hell" is a fitting title for the uniquely Midwestern version of isolated grief into which Colin and his family descend.

"They're basically avoiding each other in every way that they can, but also spending all their time together and becoming creepily interdependent," Nathan told MPR News host Marianne Combs.

There are vivid descriptions of the loneliness of adolescent anxiety and grief. In one passage Nathan describes a grief attack that overtakes Colin's mother. 

"In high school she'd suffered anxiety attacks; a grief attack wasn't all that different. Her vision glossed over and she missed her exit, one hand on the wheel as she dug through the glove compartment for a napkin. By the time she turned around and got back on the freeway everything around her looked strange, as if she'd never been there before, and she was no longer bound by love." 

Minneapolis writer Patrick Nathan is known for his short fiction. "Some Hell" is his first novel.

Use the audio player above to hear the full segment.