An enchanted amusement park teaches people how to better live their lives.
At the opening of Burchard’s debut, the unnamed narrator sits at the bedside of his comatose fiancée Mary, who had gone missing for 40 days after they had a fight. Mary wakes briefly and tells him to visit a long-closed theme park where her younger brother had fallen to his death years earlier. The narrator follows her instructions, but finds that the park has not reopened—at least not in the conventional sense. Groundskeeper Henry becomes his “sponsor,” making him sign a contract that declares, “I agree to give up my defense mechanisms and face the truth. . . . I agree to give up my belief that change equals pain . . .” From there, Henry leads the narrator through the good and bad moments in his own past, and in Mary’s. He witnesses her brother’s death and understands for the first time that her parents blamed Mary for it. He confronts the roots of his often uncontrollable anger by reliving encounters with his abusive father, who abandoned him as a teenager when his mother died. The end of the narrator’s “journey” through the park finds him willing to put more into his relationship with Mary, who had embarked on a similar adventure during her disappearance. He also reconciles with his estranged father, learning that it was Dad who instigated the whole learning process with his own willingness to change. Burchard sacrifices plot, character development and prose for the sake of his Message—an unfortunate decision, given how very vague that message is.
Hokey self-help advice thinly veiled as fiction.