In her debut novel Sleep Before Evening (Bewrite Books, 2007), Magdalena Ball probes into the psychic maze of teenage delinquency. The book shows the angst of the heroine Marianne Cotton, a 17-year old girl of artistic aptitude, who grapples with the emptiness of life by resorting to drugs and ends up close to death. From the death of her affectionate grandfather to the nearly fatal drug overdose, Marianne’s life instantiates the pattern of disrupted attachment that underlies most (if not all) cases of juvenile delinquency. It is a fictional but thoroughly investigative case study of the tenderest age of life and the elements that render its disintegration.
Set in the year 1982, Sleep Before Evening is a an engaging character-driven narrative, focusing on the images, speech, feelings, and dreams of Marianne, turning the inside of her mind out for the readers to explore. The emerging talent of her artistic spirit is checked by the death of her mentor-her grandfather-and her mother’s failure to provide the necessary love and care. Soon Marianne’s quest for peace and human attachment begins, carrying her astray like a detached leaf in a wild wind. The author’s control of the story is masterly; her insight combining with her exceptional narrative skills to write a story that presents the case of millions of young drug addicts, right here amidst us.
Sleep Before Evening is certainly more than a novel. It is an honest piece of commentary on familial and societal elements that tear apart the tender fabric of innocence off youngsters’ lives. Marianne comes to the readers as the true picture of loneliness, her survival resting on the development of a human connection. Yet, her failure to find one in a crowded city because people are insecurely and frantically looking for career, fame, and money, is a thought-provoking tragedy. Whether or not she comes out these tempestuous waters is a separate issue; the need to understand her, look for her in our homes and lives, and help her out of her throes is crucial to our own survival as humans on this planet.