This small treasure happened to fall into Ms. Hen’s lap recently. SPIN CYCLES is a novella published by the Gemma Media Open Door Series for new readers. Not necessarily young readers, but people who are new to reading as adults. The books are very simply written, and brief. Ms. Hen happened to read this book in one day, on the train on her way to work, then she finished it on her lunch break.
The story of the homeless man is heartbreaking. He wanders around Boston, looking at people, finding places to sleep, scavenging food, and tries to survive in a world that does not want him. The character is brilliant; he went to MIT, but his parents kicked him out of the house because of his instability.
If you are a fan of Ms. Hen’s blog, you will know that she is interested in fiction about mental illness. This book is an accurate portrayal of a young person who is severely bipolar, and has no choice but to wander the streets of Boston, without meaning, and without hope. He only finds comfort in watching the spin cycles in the Laundromats around the city; the steady rhythm of the clothes going around and around soothes his busy brain. He doesn’t have access to medication or therapy, and does not have a home, and watching the machines is the only sedative he has.
Ms. Hen thinks that this book is a lovely description of a walking tour through Boston. The character walks from the JFK Park in Harvard Square down the river to Copley Square, and to the Boston Common. Ms. Hen could picture the character walking through the city on a late autumn day, because she’s been there, and has experienced the beauty of the city during that time. But she also understands the tragedy of the character; there are people like this everywhere, which the general public ignores and never considers what the homeless might be going through.
Ms. Hen doesn’t remember reading a novel or a novella about a homeless person before. She did some research to find out if there are a lot of books like this, and there aren’t many. There are a number of nonfiction books, and young adult books, which SPIN CYCLES could be considered, but there are very few novels about homeless characters. Ms. Hen thinks that the homeless are people who do not have a voice, and most people don’t care about them, they just walk by, and don’t see that they are people. A book like this attempts to understand the character from the inside, and to see his life from his point of view. Ms. Hen thinks that this is a perfect book for new readers, since reading fiction fosters empathy, this small book has the potential of teaching people what it’s like to live in another person’s skin for a short time.
There are no chickens or hens in SPIN CYCLES, but that doesn’t mean Ms. Hen didn’t adore this book. She enjoyed the simplicity of the story, and the tenderness of the character, and opening her eyes to thinking about homeless people around the city, that they all have stories, and have had former lives, and could have genius and potential the same as anyone else walking down the street.