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I was born in the Netherlands where I never felt at home. Just before the turn of the century, and at the height of a successful career as a television cameraman, I decided to move my family to the Caribbean to pursue my dreams of living a life like Sandy in Flipper. After living on two different islands and a short stay in Florida, I now reside on St. Barths where I'm a father, I surf, and write (often while under attack by blood thirsty mosquitos rather than hearing the laughter of jolly dolphins). Other than three novels, I have also written several screenplays, and I'm always working on several projects at the same time.
on Dec. 12, 2010 :
All That You Can leave Behind is the story of Sage who is struggling to survive an abusive father, a disinterested mother and social isolation in the midst of a Carribean paradise.
Written in the first person, Thyssen has captured his protagonists voice with an astonishing authenticity. Sage is a troubled thirteen year old boy and his thoughts and actions reflect that. Thyssen communicates the complexity of a teen’s thought processes and emotions along with the way they view the world. It’s easy to empathise with Sage even if your own experiences are dissimilar. I ached for this lost boy and felt his pain and confusion and desperate need for love deeply.
Thyssen was creative and clever in using a blog to give his character his voice. The immediacy of his point of view is crucial to the realism of his character. I did feel that at times that there was some repetition of information that may have been true to Sage but was a minor irritant to read.
I felt that the secondary characters were also well developed espcially given we only have Sage’s point of view to show what he knows and thinks about them. I wanted to slap his mother more than once and thank John and his wife for their decency.
The themes of the novel can be confronting but are handled with a raw honesty. It is Sage’s voice that ensures that the details of his experiences, while often shocking, are never salacious. Everything is layered in strong emotion that both highlights and cushions the bad and the good. There is a thread of hope that Thyssen nurtures that stops the story becoming overwhelmed by the darker aspects.
All That You Can Leave Behind is well written with an unique protagonist and thought provoking premise. Challenging, yet ultimately uplifting, this semi biographical work of fiction is a worthy read.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on Oct. 28, 2010 :
All That You Can Leave Behind tells the story of 13-year old Sage who lives with his mother on a remote French island in the Caribbean.
From the outset, Sage becomes engulfed in a world of mind-numbing loneliness and isolation. He and his mother live in a rented house near the beach in a remote spot with a few big houses around and a small hotel, but they’re all walled in.
His mother smokes pot and is having an affair with a local guy named Leo. Most of the time they’re high on weed and they both ignore Sage, and spend very little time at home.
Sage grows up believing that his birth was a mistake. “I was an accident, neither of my parents wanted kids but I happened to get born so then they were stuck with me,” he laments.
He doesn’t go to school because he can’t speak French. Besides, his mother didn’t do the necessary paperwork for his enrollment. He has no friends and can’t relate to the few people who flit in and out of his life, including his mother. He’s forced to spend most of his time at home in his room or alone on the beach swimming and surfing.
It’s a hellish experience for a youth who, by nature, loves to talk but can’t find any friends his age since moving to the island. He makes up for it by chatting with lizards and playing with a couple of stray dogs he picked up and turned into his pets. Memories of his father whom he left back home in California bring no relief. “I’m fucking scared to death of him,” he confesses. His father leads a shady life, is a heavy drinker and frequently beat the living daylights out of him. He’s been to jail and is a repeat offender.
Sage is also tormented by memories of the rape he suffered at the hands of his uncle.
Meanwhile, with each passing day, he and his mother drift further and further apart. This causes him to feel more neglected and intensifies his hatred for her, even though deep inside he knows he still loves her.
Sage finds solace by blogging. He owns a stolen laptop which his father gave to him and, whenever he gets the opportunity, he records his day-to-day experiences and trials. His blogs form the building blocks of the story which is narrated in the first person through a series of posts laying bare Sage’s soul and giving his readers a graphic view inside the mind of a deeply troubled teen. That’s the reason why the identity of the island is not disclosed; a 13-year old telling the sort of heart-wrenching story that Sage tells would not want to disclose his location online. There’s also the possibility that the secrets he reveals about his past and his family could have disastrous repercussions for him and the persons involved. He can’t even let his mother know what he’s doing on the net for fear she confiscates his laptop and further isolates him.
Sage also finds release by cutting himself. “I feel good while I cut, but right after I always feel shitty,” he explains. He has a box with a bunch of knives, a razorblade and a piece of glass with a sharp edge which he uses to do the cutting. He seems to be well on the way to self–destruction.
Through it all, the island is mostly used as a backdrop for the story. It is also employed as a metaphor for isolation because of the limitations that living there poses on Sage.
Ultimately, instead of blaming the island for his troubles, Sage comes to the realisation that he can only take control of his life and move forward by putting the past behind him.
All That You Can Leave Behind packs a powerful punch. David Thyssen succeeds in capturing the teenage voice of Sage with striking authenticity and a down-to-earth candour that is not untypical of America’s urbanized youths, down to their idiom and street talk.
Through the tortured mind of Sage he provides a revelatory glimpse into the hearts of many troubled youths who have been deeply scarred, and struggle with all manner of internal demons unleashed on them by parental neglect, the misunderstanding of adults and a largely cold and uncaring world.
“I don’t give a shit about life, or even want to live. Just give me one good reason why I should have a desire to live. Life just sucks. Period,” says Sage. And he’s just 13.
All That You Can Leave Behind is an inspirational story of redemption and a moving testimony to the innate human drive for life and our unrelenting quest for love and acceptance.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)