“I am a guest house. Maybe you are too. I cannot choose what comes and goes. All I can do is open the door, smile, and say, come in.”
Along with short stories, the only novel required for the summer session of WRI483: Character, Narrator and Psychic Space is Shannon Terrell’s The Guest House: Stories of a Nervous Mind. It’s always nice to see just one book on the syllabus; it hurts the wallet a little less (thanks Professor Currie). But by the end of the course I understood why. Terrell’s book alone was more than enough to see what great expressive writing looks like.
Shannon Terrell’s The Guest House is a compilation of stories about her life, from the onset of her anxiety, her complicated home life, toxic relationships, and the struggles to cope with these experiences. As Terrell grows from child to adult, we witness her difficult journey with the constant anxiety that weighs her down.
While Terrell’s stories are inherently interesting, it’s her writing that makes them flourish. Every chapter made me feel something. I was horrified. I was hopeful. I was captivated by the way Terrell wrote her scenes. The strength of her descriptions was enviable. I adored how her vivid imagery was replete with unique little details that may seem random, but help you better understand her character and immerse yourself in the moment. Meanwhile, in just the right instances, Terrell exploits our emotions by withholding details. It’s a wondrous balancing act, one that maximizes psychic space, allowing readers to connect with the story by filling in the blanks.
The summer session zoomed by as it usually does, so reading quickly was required to get responses in on time. But with Terrell’s novel, it wasn’t a struggle to finish. The book was an easy read. The chapters were short. Without realizing it, I breezed through the stories, a rare occurrence for me these days. I don’t exactly know how she did it, or in what specific passage, but at some point, I became invested in Terrell’s life.
The Guest House is an inspiring book about life and how to deal with our truths. What I love about some Professional Writing courses is that we read stories by writers from close to home — writers from UTM. Shannon Terrell was once a UTM student who, like me, majored in English Literature and Professional Writing & Communication. And so, her novel assumes an inspirational quality for me and other emerging writers.
Expressive writing can be difficult. While this seems like an obvious statement, it’s not just about the words. Putting your life on paper can leave you feeling vulnerable and exposed. It’s not easy to reveal some of your worst moments to the world. But sometimes they make for the best stories. Each experience you read shows you the world a little more each time.