Barcomb’s debut novel tells a story of healing and hope
KNOX – When Jessica Perrin Barcomb was in her twenties, she fell down a stairwell and landed on her head. She was in a coma and had to be resuscitated several times.
It angered her when people told her things happened for a reason.
But now she realizes she has learned so much, especially on the road to recovery.
Barcomb has just published his first novel, which opens with the description of a terrible car accident. The central character of the book, Rebecca, at age 7, survives after a coma, but her beloved mother, a healer, dies.
Barcomb, who has wanted to be a writer all his life, points out in this week’s Enterprise podcast that the book is not autobiographical. Even so, she drew on many of her real-life experiences to bring it to life.
The novel is both a romance, as Rebecca works through relationships with multiple men to define herself, and is also a testament to the healing powers of alternative medicine.
A real marker of Barcomb’s recovery, she says, was going to live with her grandmother to help her after she suffered a stroke.
“We all want to help each other….”, she said. “At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.”
Barcomb became a craniosacral therapist, which Rebecca from the book ends up pursuing. Just as Rebecca in the novel says Western medicine saved her life, Barcomb says, “Western medicine is awesome” and notes that her twin brother holds both an MD and a Ph.D.
But the author, Jessica Barcomb, and the character she created, Rebecca Carroll, believe Western medicine is failing to address important aspects of healing.
“One of the biggest issues we have is mental health and spiritual health in this country….recognizing the other dimensions that we have all around us,” Barcomb says.
When practicing craniosacral therapy — she’s owned a wellness studio for more than two decades — Barcomb uses a touch as light as a nickel to “tap into the various craniosacral rhythms of the body.” She says it can help not just with physical ailments, like a knee or ankle injury, but with things like depression or trauma.
“People have to be willing to let go and release what they’re clinging to,” she says.
The name of his book is “Letting Go”.
The most enduring relationship in the novel, more central to the book than the men Rebecca is involved with, is the friendship between Sarah and Rebecca. They had been best friends since they were girls and were separated by Rebecca’s first love but reunited by the end of the book.
Sarah chose the path of being a stay-at-home mom, raising three young children on a farm in the Hilltowns of Helderberg.
“It is important that people recognize the challenges that women face…. says Barcomb. “How they need each other to support each other and how often they don’t get much support…. It’s not easy being a mother… trying to do everything.
A feminist theme runs through the book; while Rebecca studies art at New York University, Sarah, in her university years, is a women’s studies student who travels to Europe to learn more about the persecution of witches.
Often women who were healers and midwives were targeted as witches, Barcomb says. The novel’s Rebecca discovers a book from her great-great-great-great-grandmother who was a medicine man living in Salem, Massachusetts in the 1600s.
Many of today’s craniosacral therapists are women, Barcomb says, just as many Salem residents hanged for witchcraft in the 1600s were women.
Barcomb notes that the story is often told from a male perspective. “We just don’t know the other half of the story very well,” she says. She wants her readers to reflect on “how women have been treated throughout history and their roles and how they have been minimized and often silenced”.
For her research, Barcomb and her husband traveled to Salem and stayed at the same inn where Rebecca stayed with a male friend. Much like the characters in his book, Barcomb says, “There were explosions when I was there and my husband went to the window and I opened my eyes and saw a ghost.”
While writing the book, Barcomb learned that her own ancestors had lived in Salem in the 1600s, settling in Boston before the witch trials, similar to Rebecca’s story.
Barcomb worked on his novel for years, taking a five-year hiatus between the first and final draft. When her children were young — like Sarah from the novel, she and her husband raised them on a farm in Hilltown — Barcomb worked on her writing in spaces and places where she could.
When her daughter was in ballet class, Barcomb said, she wrote on her laptop in the car. When her son was taking piano lessons, the teacher let him use a free room to write.
Barcomb hopes “Letting Go” is the first in a trilogy and thinks she will have more time to write now that her children are older.
She thinks women are a likely audience for “Letting Go” but hopes men will read it too.
“I hope,” she says, “this opens up a discussion about healing and what’s important about it and how we can do it better as a society.”
“Letting Go,” a 308-page paperback, is available on Amazon for $16 and will hit local bookstores soon.
Jessica Perrin Barcomb will be signing her novel at the Open Door Bookstore at 128 Jay St. in Schenectady on Saturday, February 5 from 1-2:30 p.m.