Why I Wrote The Cenote
By Chelsea Dyreng
LDS fiction is not my favorite genre. I think it is predictable, boring and so squeaky clean that it is not relatable to real life. And when one of these books is put to the test, like for instance at a bookclub, the discussion is homogenous, lukewarm and brief. What is there to talk about when there is no challenge? When there is nothing to make us feel uncomfortable? When there is no proverbial beast to slay? When it is simply more of the same?
Though we try to keep our lives as clean as possible, what we encounter every day is not always wholesome or worthy. We don’t always have the luxury of standing in holy places. Especially if we want to help those in need. Sometimes we have to pick up our holy places and carry them with us like an inner tube through a dark, murky swamp.
But even though life is not always pristine, it is not my desire to write about evil and darkness either.
So I write in allegories.
The beauty of allegory is that it can be wonderfully foreign and achingly familiar at the same time. It also can mean many things to many different people. As the author, even if I am clearly writing about something that in my mind is very specific, the reader might glean something very different. That is why I hesitate to tell readers what my stories are about. The discovery process is far too satisfying and personal, and I don’t want to take that rewarding experience away from them.
That said, those of you who visit Hope and Healing will understand right away what my story is about, and it is to you that my book is especially meaningful. I will give you a short sketch:
This book is about a couple. They are newlyweds in a hastily arranged marriage. They are both naïve, they are both immature, and they both are hiding something.
The story takes place in a small fictional Mesoamerican village where the villagers get their drinking water from an unusual pool that beckons to the men. Yes, it beckons to them. It sings to them. It entices them. Yet, while the men are hearing this singing, the women of the village hear nothing. All that the women know is that if a man falls into the pool and drowns, he is to be left for dead. He is not to be rescued and there is no funeral. The incident is not discussed, and everyone is expected to move along with their lives as if nothing happened because talking about it is so extremely painful and unpleasant. A death in the cenote is a death of shame.
You get what I’m talking about, don’t you?
The problem with addiction, especially pornography, is the shame. The addict can’t reach out because of shame. The family can’t reach out because of shame. Shame so saturates the family that no one can get help without subjecting the ones they love to embarrassment, betrayal and pain. So the problem stays a secret.
But even as damaging as secrecy can be, public exposure can be just as destructive. You can’t hide the truth, you can’t tell the truth. So what is a family member to do?
I wanted to write a book so that people could have a way to talk about the problem without having to say, “My husband . . . ” A way that could give them opportunities to discuss the frustration without revealing personal family information; an outlet so that people could talk about characters instead of real individuals. And I wanted to do it in a format that was intriguing, entertaining and positive.
As you read The Cenote I hope you internalize several important things:
1. No one is immune from addiction.
2. Communication with loved ones is everything.
3. Isolation is death.
Keep in mind, I am not a therapist and this book is not a self-help book. It is a discussion book. There may be things that you disagree with, and that is great. Let’s discuss. There might be a point in the story that you want to throw it on the ground and stomp on it. Let’s discuss. Or maybe you found something else that troubles/enlightens/scares/inspires you. Let’s discuss. The discussions will be what will make this book meaningful and compelling, not the book itself.
But let’s not overanalyze. In its purest form, this book is just a simple love story that can take you away for a couple days. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and hopefully when you come back you will be more understanding, more forgiving and more courageous than you were before.
If you are interested in ordering your own copy of The Cenote you can find it here.