Release Date: December 16, 2013
Published By: Green Press/Eva Pohler
Length: 213 pages
Review Copy: E-book, provided by author for honest review
Seventeen year-old Daphne Janus is floored when her parents agree to let her accompany her best friend to a getaway resort on an island off the coast of California. She doesn't know her parents have sent her to the Purgatorium as a last-ditch effort to save their child.
Her best friend and life-long neighbor takes her to a mostly uninhabited island with a wildlife preserve on one side and Chumash Indian ruins on the “haunted” side. The resort might be beautiful, the beach pristine, and the views from the headland amazing, but strange things begin to happen that soon have Daphne running for her life. At first she finds the therapeutic games thrilling: the ghosts that visit her room, the dropping elevator, and the kayak incident are actually kind of fun once she recovers from them. But when her horse bucks her off during a trail ride and she becomes lost on the haunted side of the island, it’s not fun anymore, and she wonders if her parents have sent her there to help her or to punish her.
Eva Pohler’s The Purgatorium, is a YA Novel, and the first in a new series. It would perhaps best be categorized as a Psychological Thriller meets Self Help. Daphne is a 17 year old, teetering between life and death. When her best friend, Cam, gets permission from her parents to take her to a beautiful resort off the coast of California, Daphne plans to end it all there. After all, what more does she have to live for? Her life ended anyway—the night her sister Kara was killed. Something, that she could never, would never forgive herself for. When she gets to the resort however, her plans hit a snag, thanks to the fact that they have an absolutely beautiful glass pool, a beautiful beach and amazing sights. Daphne begins to feel a bit guilty about all the fun she’s having. Especially since Kara can no longer have fun. If Kara can’t have fun, why should she? So feelings of joy and guilt assault Daphne early on at the resort, and then things take a weird turn. The resort serves as therapy for some patrons, and a vacation spot for others. Unbeknownst to her, Daphne is there for the former. The therapy at this resort is not your average run of the mill therapy session. Daphne learns this when “ghosts” give her a spook one night, she’s stuck on an elevator, trapped in a cave, and even almost eaten by sharks. Despite these occurrences however, Daphne trusts that she was never in any real danger, in fact, she sort of likes the thrill of it all and Cam convinces her that it’s for her own good. So, she withstands the strange occurrences, while making new friends and enjoying the beauty of the resort. Events, however, take a turn for the worst, when Daphne is thrown from her horse, during a hiking excursion along a trail. Either it was a simple mistake or things at the resort are more sinister than they appear.
Daphne’s emotional struggles were so real, despite the fact that, I, as the reader was more than capable of understanding that what happened to her sister was not her fault. However when one endures such a trauma and is even blamed by one’s parent, her depression and hurt is sufficient. What person, especially teenager would feel any differently? So yes, I acquired an emotional connection to the character of Daphne, yes she tended to talk a bit too much at times, especially in certain situations, but I was able to forgive such shortcomings. I was torn in regards to Cam’s character. Perhaps it was in large part due to his complex relationship with her, as well as the subsequent “betrayal”. Due to potential spoilers, I shall refrain from discussing the “betrayal”, but I shall elaborate just a smidge regarding his relationship with Daphne. Certainly Cam seemed to care deeply for Daphne, in fact, he cared so deeply that in the first few chapters of the book, and I wrongly assumed that he was her boyfriend. Everything from the hand holding to the kissing and to the snuggling, resulted in confusion. What perhaps added to this confusion is the fact that Daphne does have a boyfriend, Brock. Brock doesn’t appear until much later in the book, but I must say that I did enjoy the dynamics between Daphne and Brock. In certain books, there are characters which are lazily thrown into the fold, serving no purpose whatsoever, in The Purgatorium, this was not the case. Each character played an intricate role, from Stan to the other young adults and most certainly, Dr. Hortense Gray.
The subject matter of The Purgatorium is intense. Especially when dealing with such a delicate issue such as suicide. The methods used by Dr. Gray and those at the resort, rightfully raise a red flag. An important question which I asked myself quite a few times while reading The Purgatorium, was, How far would I go to save a loved one who was teetering between life and death? Would I disregard my moral compass and do whatever was necessary to save that person’s life? I found my answer, and perhaps you will do the same when you read The Purgatorium.
As upset as Daphne felt over Cam springing this surprise therapy on her, she hoped to carry out her plan within the next couple of days. She went to the kitchenette to open the drawers. Yes, there were knives. She hadn’t seen kitchen knives in months. She took one from the drawer and brought it closer to her eyes, running a finger along the blade. When the time was right, this would do.
The beach below was indeed pristine, with soft white sand along the shoreline, foamy waves gently lapping up and back, gulls flying overhead, and as they made their way down a few more steps to a boardwalk, she couldn’t stop saying, “It’s so beautiful.”
Daphne marched beside Brock across the sandy beach, mulling over his reaction to her confession. She was shocked outright that he hadn’t condemned her. Maybe love had blinded him. The alternative seemed so unlikely: that perhaps she wasn’t responsible for Kara’s death.
How Greek Myths Inspire Us to Be Heroes
I fell in love with Greek myths in the eighth grade, when I read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. Later, after studying Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, I better understood why most people are drawn to myths: They help us to project and symbolically play out our own fears and desires. Carl Jung wrote of universal archetypes—such as the Madonna, the soldier, and the rogue. Sigmund Freud wrote that art was the opportunity for adults to continue childhood play in a socially acceptable way. Joseph Campbell built upon the works of both Jung and Freud to describe The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which inspired George Lukas in the creation of Star Wars.
As a writer, I, like Lukas, wished to tap into that universal consciousness where fears and desires are shared. Myths make it possible to project universal fears, or what we often call our inner demons, into monsters that can be externally fought and defeated. The most universal fear is death. I created a saga for young adults in which death is not only faced and, in some ways, battled, but also embraced and transcended.
In the first book of this contemporary fantasy, The Gatekeeper’s Sons, fifteen-year-old Therese Mills meets Thanatos, the god of death, while in a coma after witnessing her parents’ murder. She feels like the least powerful person on the planet and is ready to give up on life, but the story forces her to fight. As she hunts with the fierce and beautiful Furies (the deities responsible for punishing the bad souls) to track down her parents’ murder and avenge their deaths, she falls in love with Thanatos and symbolically accepts her parents’ and her own mortality.
In the second book, The Gatekeeper’s Challenge, Therese has the opportunity to transcend death by accepting five seemingly impossible challenges issued by Hades, the god of the Underworld. All five challenges represent the universal fears of rejection, culpability, disorientation, death, and loss in the forms of a box not allowed to be opened, an apple that shouldn’t be eaten, a labyrinth meant to confuse, a Hydra that wants to destroy, and the allure of bringing back the dead. These same myths are recycled again and again through the centuries because they help us to recognize our inner demons and inspire us to defeat them.
The third book of the saga, The Gatekeeper’s Daughter, forces Therese to look inward. All gods and goddesses serve humanity or the world in some way, and in order to remain at Thanatos’s side, she must discover her unique purpose while protecting her loved ones against antagonistic forces. Throughout mythology, heroes have gone on long quests, often seeking an object. The object is not without importance, but self-actualization is the true victory in any hero’s quest, and Therese’s is no exception. Her journey to become a goddess with a unique purpose parallels the young adult’s transition into adulthood and self-fulfillment.
The fourth book, The Gatekeeper’s House, begins with an attack on the Underworld, and now that Therese is just like any other god, she is without the special favors afforded to humans. She’s on her own in this epic battle to rebind the unleashed souls and save the House of Hades while helping the Furies discover the identity of the attacker. She has to learn to put her big girl goddess panties on and run with the big girl goddesses if she’s going to be relevant. Think of Odysseus when he returns to Penelope after his long journeys. Heroes must remain relevant when they return home, and the heroes of myth demonstrate the need for social consciousness. Therese learns to look beyond her own needs and desires to contribute to the greater good and to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.
The fifth and sixth books of the series, The Gatekeeper’s Secret and The Gatekeeper’s Promise, depict Therese transcending from the status of rookie god to become a key player among the Olympians. She joins the Athena Alliance, which plans to free Metis and Cybele and stand up for mothers and daughters who’ve been wronged by Zeus. Therese wants to help the Alliance to reform the pantheon and to establish true justice and democracy among the Olympians, even at the risk of her own happily ever after.
As young adults negotiate through adolescence and adulthood, they struggle with the same universal conflicts portrayed by the ancients. As modern readers, we should revisit those stories to help us with our own epic battles—both the internal and external ones.
About the Author
Eva Pohler writes both adult and young adult fiction and teaches both writing and literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she lives with her husband and three children. She is the author of The Gatekeeper’s Saga (a young adult series based on Greek mythology), The Purgatorium (a contemporary young adult suspense series), and The Mystery Book Collection (comprised of three adult mystery novels—The Mystery Box, The Mystery Tomb, and The Mystery House).
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