A novel of healing and transformation.
A young man named Paul serves two years in jail for assaulting his girlfriend, the mother of his baby. Released and aimless, Paul takes to stealing wallets and purses on the street. One day a woman resists and he kills her. He goes into hiding and is never caught. So starts his twenty-year journey from isolation, shame and bafflement at himself, towards healing, transformation and rediscovered humanity.
Miki tells this story in Without Flinching, her first and only novel.
And now you can read it. We invite you to read two extracts below, and to download the whole novel on a gift economy basis.
Miki writes in the book’s preface:
Why I Want the Book to Be Out
This is a story of healing and transformation. I have never been sure that I could do the story sufficient literary justice to make it shine. This is why I am not even trying to find an agent and work on getting it published. However, I think stories of healing and transformation are rare enough that I want this out, I want people to have access to it.
Much of what I read is based on very bleak theories of human nature, ones that have never resonated with my heart. I want this possibility – of someone like Paul, who manages to heal from having harmed others – to be known and celebrated.
There is a lot of pain in this story, and the journey toward healing is unsteady, complex, and extended. The first 100 pages or so are full of bleakness and despair, as well as some violence, and may be challenging to read. I hope enough of you will stick with it to get to see how Paul’s life turns around and he finds himself and the possibility of connecting with others and with life.
He put on his brown shoes and his good white shirt that he brought for this occasion. It was Saturday morning, late enough that she would be up, but not likely gone. He stood in front of the door for a long time. His hands were shaking, his heart beating, and he wasn’t sure he would be able to talk. He rang the bell.
“Who is it?” came the cautious question.
“Alice,” he said hoarsely, “It’s Paul, please open the door. I came to talk with you.”
A long painful pause followed. Would she let him in? Then the lock turned, the door opened, and she stood in the doorway, completely pale, half blocking the door. She had no smile on her face, no invitation. He nodded awkwardly. She looked at him for a long second. He lowered his eyes involuntarily, then raised them again with effort. Her eyes were not greeting him. What was she going through? She scrutinized him, her eyes going up and down, a little squinted, but not from light. Still not a word, but it looked like she had made her decision, and she moved aside with a silent gesture to let him know he could come in.
She walked ahead of him, not looking back, not welcoming. But her body still commanded attention from him, graceful, still sexy. The years had not taken their toll yet. She was wearing grey corduroys, and a slightly faded black sweatshirt. From behind he didn’t need to hide that he was looking at her.
They walked into her simple living room, with one couch, a small coffee table, a large TV, and a couple of chairs. She motioned him to sit in one of them, and sat down on the couch. She didn’t say a word, just looked at him. Her mouth was just as beautiful as he remembered it.
He didn’t know where to start. Read more…
“I decided I want to know more. If I’m to love you, be close to you…” she paused briefly before saying her next words. She looked vulnerable, naked in her helplessness and resolve. “… like I want to” at last came the words, almost inaudible. She searched his eyes. He held her gaze, softly cutting through him. He never once felt this intimate with Alice. His heart ached, his throat suddenly narrowed. No time had elapsed, and then she went on, sounding more confident. “If I’m to love you and be your friend, I want to know everything, or it won’t count.”
Paul knew he had to say something. But he suddenly felt spent, numb, and oddly bitter. How can she know, how could she ever understand?
“I may not be able to understand,” she almost read his mind. “I want to try.” Read more…
Image credit: Breakthrough by Brian Fuller, Flickr, (CC BY-ND 2.0)