Set in the early eighties, this is the story of Mary Ann, who awakens from the nightmare of an attempted suicide to what she considers the nightmare of daily life and recovery from addiction. As the reader joins her journey, both demons and life-preservers make their appearance. Mary Ann’s path through the year begins and ends with her struggle to face life’s challenges and keep growing in spite of her deep wounds and sometimes tortured emotions. It is at once a novel of pain, perseverance, and strength—simultaneously compassionate and brutally honest. No matter what the reader’s background, Mary Ann’s story will resonate on many levels and linger long after the final page is turned.
In A Sky for Arcadia, you’ll meet Mary Ann as she first tries to get sober and then follow her through a tortuous first year. During that time she struggles to deal with crippling grief from losing her daughter in the time before the book begins. Meanwhile, her charming son is on a dangerous path and she seems to be the only one willing to recognize his peril. Her family, while a loving one, is not particularly helpful. They don’t know much about addiction or recovery and don’t really want to know about uncomfortable details or emotions. In addition, Mary Ann does a number of things she is told not to do, including getting involved with a man she hardly knows. The novel is set in 1984 amidst an economic downturn that threatens her livelihood as the owner of a small, independent bookstore, but she still finds new friends and some old acquaintances who see her though the ordeal. Mary Ann emerges from her year stronger, but with her own battle scars.
Janet wrote A Sky for Arcadia because as much as she admires fine works like Lost Weekend and Days of Wine and Roses, they are much more about the drunkalog, as it is known, than recovery from addiction. There are tons of tabloid stories about going to rehab, but few tell you what recovery from addiction is really like. The only people who even seem to be aware of the process or interested in it are those affiliated with any of the numerous other twelve-step programs. There are a few movies like “When a Man Loves a Woman,” which are focused mostly on what happens after one gets clean and sober, but not many, and most of these stories deal less with the recovery process than with the interpersonal fallout.
Novelists often speak of their characters coming to life and as Mary Ann’s story emerged in the writing, Janet became increasingly determined to share it with others. She eventually self published the novel and it was chosen as one of eight finalists in the Oklahoma Center for the Book Awards in 2002.