Marilyn believes writing a novel is a lot like raising a child. There comes a day when you must let her go, even though you realize the world is still a perilous place. That day has arrived for All You Know On Earth. Having tried traditional methods – endless queries to publishers and agents, money spent on stamps and printer toner -- she has decided to do it herself (with a lot of help from other people). Marilyn once believed self-publishing to be an extreme act of hubris, and she would likely be struck dumb if she chose such a path, but she’s come to see that it is actually quite harmless. Self-publishing is simply an alternate means of communication made available by modern technology. Or, if you like metaphors, it is just a new way to share our stories and dreams around the campfire. So, grab a marshmallow and let’s begin . . .
Is memory trustworthy? Is the content of our personal narrative more fiction than fact? How much does the creative process play a part in constructing our past?
In 1910 Doctor Cal Wyatt, fresh from Harvard and Johns Hopkins University, travels west to take a position at the Arizona Territorial Insane Asylum. Eager and persuasive, he convinces the superintendent of the institution to let him test Freud’s new talking therapy on a female inmate who appears to have a simple case of amnesia. These sessions take place during an era of rapid progress and change in Phoenix. Automobiles are becoming a common sight. Suffragettes march in the streets for women’s rights. Pancho Villa causes problems across the border. And the newly-constructed Roosevelt Dam creates a proud sense of man’s control over nature. But all of these events are irrelevant inside the iron fence of the asylum – a place where time moves at each inmate’s own peculiar pace, where the past and present overlap, and where imagination is sometimes more important than the truth.
Dr. Cal Wyatt – eager young psychiatrist and recent graduate of Harvard and Johns Hopkins. He accepts a job in the Arizona Territory and finds challenges in the desert that he never expected.
Rachel Cook Battles – inmate in the Phoenix asylum. She hides secrets she doesn’t want to remember, even though that is the specific goal of Dr. Wyatt’s therapy.
Dr. Simon Norris – colleague of Cal’s who is skeptical of Freudian practices. His interests are tied to politics and Arizona’s statehood.
Dr. Will Morgan – elderly superintendent of the asylum. A Civil War veteran and humanitarian, Will sees hope for the future in the new psychiatric theories.
Socorro Hernandez – nurse at the asylum whose tenderness and faith help Rachel find the stories that ease her pain.
Darcy Kelly – young stenographer who is present for all of Rachel’s sessions. She finds them difficult to listen to and wonders if they are necessary. Darcy becomes involved in the women’s suffrage movement.
Ramon Sandoval – mysterious man in Rachel’s world. Is he part of her past, or one of her dreams? Does his memory inspire creativity or block the search for truth?
These are the people, places and events of significance at the time of the novel.
Marilyn McGrath has written and published poetry about many diverse subjects, as well as several poems complementary to her novel.