Want to know more about the Narrative Imperative? The best way is to click here to get to the beginning and read though. You have a lot of catching up to do, however. If you prefer, then read the synopsis with links to relevant chapters.
But, beware: it gives some things away.
The story begins with Harry getting ready to hang himself at his office when he’s interrupted by another suicidal person. He talks the person down, and himself, too, for the time being. He can’t understand how others can get hope from him when he feels no hope himself. He decides to begin this blog and write until he figures it out.
He goes to pray and ask God what he should do. The only answer he gets is silence, which is all he ever gets.
We meet Cheryl, the frequent flyer who doesn’t show up on Christmas, so Harry calls her to see if she is coming.
Harry attempts suicide again, but the ceiling comes down. We meet Daniel, a Rastafarian, who had climbed in the lion’s cage at the zoo.
Next, he’s sitting on his couch eating chips when a call comes in from his daughter. His son, her brother, is returning from Afghanistan and she wants a ride from Kansas to Colorado to meet him.
Harry reluctantly sets out across the country to meet her while still thinking about suicide because he is not sure he can face his estranged children. He looks for a bridge to drive off of, but none of them are right.
On the trip we hear about his ex wife, Joy, how they met, and how their marriage ended. He visits some spots along the way, and out of the way: Centralia, the Cleveland West Side Market, Lincoln’s home in Springfield, and Hannibal, Missouri.
Harry gets as far as Kansas City. So that he can avoid seeing his daughter, he agrees to give Curt, a Katrina refugee, a ride back to New Orleans. They drive through the delta and Curt tells his about Papa Legba, the voodoo god that connects us to the spirit world. They get to New Orleans, get drunk on Absinthe, and Curt dives off a ferry and disappears into the Mississippi River. Harry wakes up the next day not sure of what just happened and thinks that Curt was Papa Legba himself.
Before heading up to see his daughter, he tours New Orleans and gets in a car accident. Having had a close brush with death, he adjusts his attitude, nurtures some hope and develops an improved appreciation for life. He gets a call from Cheryl, who tracked him down.
He arrives at his daughter’s home, where she still lives with her mother, and learns that his daughter is clueless about the situation in the family and his ex-wife has moved on in her life better than he has.
The father and daughter get to know one another. He is gratified to learn that Natalie wants to drive around the country with him. He confronts his guilt about being such a terrible father. He watches her flirt with men and play tennis. For the first time in a long time, he is happy.
But not for long, talking with Natalie is very awkward, although they have their moments. They have their uncomfortable differences that erupt time and again into arguments. He learns that she had been engaged to be married, but had ended it for what he considers to have been a stupid reason. They call and uneasy truce after a horrible night with bedbugs.
Harry recalls a man he had counseled in the section titled Abraham or the Adirondacks. He meddles in his daughter’s relationship with her ex-fiancé. Cheryl calls, and would rather speak with Natalie. Harry and his daughter have a big showdown in Dodge City when she finds out about his meddling. She gets a call from her ex. Harry has a vision of a white horse. Natalie has a premonition. Harry recalls when he attempted to prevent his son, Paul, from joining the Army.
They arrive in Colorado Springs and catch Paul’s wife, Kim, unmistakably with another man, Sam, his best friend and spend an uncomfortable time together not talking about what they all know. When Harry attempts to speak the truth, he is accused of having been an abusive father. He leaves, but runs into a death notification team outside the door. They learn that Paul died, his plane shot down as it was leaving Afghanistan. They are all in shock and Kim doesn’t believe it. She insists on going to the airport anyway to meet Paul as they had planned. There, she makes a scene and, despite her arrest and Paul’s death, Harry feels as though he has finally gotten his family back, at least until his ex arrives at the scene.
Harry flees his family and seeks solace at a bar called the White Horse Tavern. There he meets Carol, a desperate single mother. They go to her place and mess around, but Harry is self conscious about how he looks. Instead of having sex, he invites her to his son’s funeral. They spend the night talking; rather, she spends the night talking.
The Westboro Church protests at Paul’s funeral. Harry passes out and is taken to the hospital. Carol disappears. Harry is OK, but, when he thought he was going to die, he confesses to Natalie that he had been suicidal. She tells the doctor and he is admitted to the psych ward.
Harry befriends a young woman, Charisa, and convinces the staff that he is an undercover shrink who got himself admitted to treat her, of her paranoia. Upset that Harry has taken over the plot, the author’s author, Keith Wilson, makes an appearance and Harry agrees to rewrite the story that we just read so that he can be assured that he will not be killed off.
Released from the hospital, Harry relishes his freedom, but goes right back into to the cafeteria because he’s hungry. He hears about a patient who had been admitted with his eyes gouged out and goes to talk with him. The blind man, Tyrone, is a reformed drug dealer in the Witness Protection Program.
After talking with Tyrone, Harry gets inspired to start writing. He finds a café and gets to work.
Here the narrative branches into three parts. The first part, The Epiphany Café, follows him in the café. The second part, Intersections, is the book that he is writing. The main narrative continues in Pike’s Peak or Bust.
In Pike’s Peak or Bust: Manic Panic Vampire Red, Harry joins his family in expressing their grief by dying their hair red. They drive up Pike’s Peak to spread Paul’s ashes, but Harry has a panic attack and will not drive back down. He misses the train and decides to take the trail. He gets lost and has, not a mountaintop experience, but a mountain descending experience. He falls and is revived by a troop of Boy Scouts. He wakes up in the hospital. His daughter has taken a job as a psychic and tells him someone is in love with him. Suspecting it’s Carol, he goes to see her, but she’s with another man. He steals her cat.
Have found that no one loves him, Harry falls again into a period of despair, but he does get a lot of writing done in Intersections. He also begins to develop a crush on a barista with many piercings at the Epiphany Café. Here the main narrative continues in a new series, The Lisping Barista.