It is rare I come across a novel that astounds me. That moment is so rare, I can probably count how many times that has happened to me on one hand.
Enter “Waiting for Fitz.” What makes this book so unique is that this story allowed me to see into the mind of teenagers with mental illnesses, and it was eye opening. Yet, it was not just the story that astounded me. It was the words and the way the author chose to share the lessons he’s learned about life.
There were a lot of elements involved in my decision to curate this book into my personal library. I like to look at my personal curated library as a place that if the end of the world came, and someone came across my library, they would learn so much about the world and humanity through that collection. It’s not just about the story or whether it was well written that qualifies a book to be curated into my personal collection. It is all about what I learned from the book and whether the philosophical lessons helped mold me into the human being I am today.
That is what makes my curated library what it is. It is a statement of who I am as a human being. These are the books that helped mold my way of thinking or made me understand things in a new light. These are the stories that become a part of me.
So what is it about “Waiting for Fitz” that molded me?
Addie is OCD…like really bad OCD. She redefines what it means to be OCD.
Each morning before school, I’d walk to the bathroom, careful not to brush the wrong carpet thread when I reached the threshold. I’d stand up and sit down three times before entering the bathroom. I’d sniff two times with each step while also counting the tiles beneath each foot. I’d make sure I blinked with my left eye before entering the shower. Counting each time I tapped on the shower wall, each tap on the faucet, and each throat-clearing, I’d net two hundred and seven. I’d do this seven times before exiting the shower. Then I’d wash my hands forty-three times. Those two numbers added together made two hundred and fifty, and the two and the five made seven, of course – my favorite number. Finally, I’d dry off, sit on the bed, and count to eleven. What a great number, eleven: it’s first place two times, or seven and four, which is nice.
These little ticks and rituals are one thing, but the moment when she really needs help is when she believes that if she did not do all of these things, those she loved (her mother or her dog) would die.
So her mother does what is best for her and admits her into a hospital to work with a doctor that can help her. It is here that she meets other teenagers with mental problems, including Fitz.
Fitz is schizophrenic. He hears voices in his head and constantly talks to them. He’s smart and witty, just like Addie. The medication he’s on helps him to be more aware that the voices are there, but he is the one in control, not the voices.
Fitz and Addie develop an attraction to each other, mainly because of their love for words and witty banter as they constantly put a spin on words and phrases.
Yet, Addie can’t figure Fitz out. He goes into moments of anger that are unexplained. He walks away and refuses to talk to her for days. She never knows what triggers his anger, but he always comes back and asks for forgiveness.
Then one day, he slips a note under her door asking her to escape the facility with him. This is not his first attempt. The only thing she can get out of the other patients is that this has something to do with Quentin…and she is not sure if Quentin is a real person or a voice in his head. All she knows is that Fitz is seeking forgiveness…atonement.
She decides to help and escapes with him, because one of the things she’s learning is that maybe if she focused on others by helping them, it will help her take the focus off of herself. It will help her get to a normal stage where she’s focusing on others, rather than her own ticks and obsessions.
With the help of the rest of the group, they are able to escape and go to San Juan Island, Washington. She follows Fitz and lets him unravel his story piece by piece, never pressuring him to explain why they had to go to San Juan Island. What Fitz reveals to her is heartbreaking, explaining who Quentin is and why his mother never visits him at the hospital.
As they make their return to the mainland, Fitz, being without his medication, begins to unravel and he loses control over the voices. They take over and Addie is forced to seek help, because she is now in danger.
These quotes are the reason why I decided to curate this book into my library.
“A great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do…I guess it’s time to start living the words instead of just reading them.”
“Behind her, a few candles burned low in their cups of wax, and I wondered what my life would be like: would I get blown out, or flicker and come back stronger? We all flicker; it just depends on how willing we are to emerge again, and with how much light.”
“Like, something that is dead and gone can still light up our world. What was can still be an is if we put ourselves in the right place.” [This made me think of the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Gilgamesh spent his entire life seeking a way to be ok again after Enkidu died.]
“I guess we all have an interior monologue, but for it to be so insistent and loud and populated would be impossible to ignore. Maybe his life was a series of interruptions, and he lived in the space between. He lived in the spurts and spats between the longer moments of conversing with the imaginary group that followed him everywhere.”
“Everyone wears a mask, but actors get to change theirs constantly. I kind of envied the way they played different parts and got to live different lives. They could empathize with so many types of people, of personhood. If actors were the opposite of people, what did that make me? A series of masks, maybe.”
“We dive as deep as we can and hope somebody is listening to our call across the deep waters. All of us, at some point.”
“Because she’s amazing. Because she knows how to love. Because her heart has enough room for everybody and everything.”
“I thought of Aeolus opening up his bag of winds and how winds can take you everywhere you need to go, just like language can do great things, poetic things, but ultimately you can’t tell someone how much you love them because even that won’t adequately express how you feel. All the winds except the one you want or need, I guess.”
“Truth is overlooked, ignored, searched for but never found, and only when we think the character can’t possibly make it out of the innermost cave alive, we witness a resurrection.”
“Hope is meant to surprise us. Existence is meant to surprise. Love is meant to surprise. Love does not bow to the odds. Never has. Never will.”
On the meaning of Waiting for Godot: “Because they had everything to wait for. They had everything to show for it, as soon as that thing showed up…But life is just a series of absurd rituals until something or someone comes along to give it all meaning, right? They were waiting for that thing. For that person…Sometimes it doesn’t show up. We’re lucky if it does. But if it does, then we have something to live for. We don’t always need to wait, but when we do…Well, it’s worth waiting your entire life for that one thing, that person, to come along. It’s what gives life meaning.”
“I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.” – Tom Stoppard
The quotes above are the reason why this book will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was like taking various moments in my life, sprinkling a little gold dust over it, making the wounds heal a little faster.
As a writer, the quote from Tom Stoppard really made me think about the words I am writing in my own novel. That is the ultimate goal of the writer, to nudge the world a little, just as Spencer Hyde has done in “Waiting for Fitz.”
The words he chose to deeply contemplate the world around us were completely breathtaking and drove to the point. This book is more than just a story. It is a philosophical wonder that leaves the reader walking away with a deeper understanding to many of the obstacles we face in life, an angle we may not have considered.
As for the story itself, I don’t think I’ll ever use the term “OCD” lightly anymore. I never really understood what mental illness looked like. It is so difficult to step into the shoes of others who struggle every day to find normalcy. What Hyde has done here is open up that gateway of understanding, so we can feel their struggle, fears, and desire to be okay again as they try to stop hurting those they love because their brain is not okay.
More importantly, this book helps the reader to understand that people suffering from mental illness are not at fault for what they are going through. There is that fear people who commit suicide do it because of a mental illness. Many are left asking why, not truly understanding the struggle. Sure, we should have compassion, but I always wondered why. I don’t have to ask that anymore.
In terms of modern day works that I expect to become classical pieces of literature in the future, “Waiting for Fitz” is a novel that I believe deserves to be ranked amongst the greats. It is unlike any other book I’ve ever read. It belongs alongside the shelves of Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Frankenstein and Lord of the Flies, because it makes you explore the depths of the unknown and come out a better human being because of it. That is what “Waiting for Fitz” does. It should be on everyone’s list of Books to Read in this Lifetime. Except, don’t just put it on a list. Buy it. Absorb the words and then curate it into your own library.
[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in return for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.]