Reading, Healing & Organ Donation: Author Hannah Barnaby

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some of the parts hannah barnabyBooks, pieced together with poignant characters, interactive worlds and colorful emotions, are often considered an escape from reality. But they are also so much more than that.

“I’m a big believer in reading as an act of escape but also as an act of healing, and I wanted to give that to readers who are struggling now,” said Barnaby.

Barnaby’s novel Some of the Parts follows Tallie McGovern, a teen girl haunted by the loss of her older brother and the accident that surrounds his death. When Tallie discovers that her brother was an organ donor, she begins to construct a plan to find his different parts in hopes to piece her own life back together.

Although Barnaby does not remember when she first got the idea for her novel, she does remember flipping through a notebook to find the words “’What if you found out someone you thought was gone really wasn’t?’” and “a little arrow pointing to the words ORGAN DONOR.” She wrote those notes in the margins while working on her first novel Wonder Show in 2010 only to find them three years later.

“That’s the origin of the story,” explained Barnaby. “But the real driving force behind it was my own brother’s death in 1999, and my desire to write a book that would have helped me understand that loss.”

Earlier drafts of the novel detailed Tallie “getting progressively more delusional throughout the story” as she began to communicate with her deceased brother, but Barnaby’s editor Melanie Cecka Nolan suggested changing it.

“I was resistant at first, because it meant taking Nate [her brother]away from Tallie all over again, but Melanie was right and that revision made the book so much better.”

What hasn’t changed between the beginning and final version of Some of the Parts is its focus on organ donation. At first, Barnaby had little knowledge about the importance of organ donation.

“I started my research online–as most of us do–and quickly learned that the rules about organ recipients communicating with donor families was different from state to state.”

“Since you never know what’s true online and what’s, well, not as true, I decided to call a local agency and just have a conversation with someone who knew the protocols. I had a fairly long conversation with a very helpful man, although I had to keep reassuring him that my questions were purely for fictional purposes. I think he was a little worried that I wasn’t who I claimed to be!”

A lot of thing stuck out to Barnaby while researching, such as the fact that while many people automatically associate organ donation with the recently deceased, many donate while they’re alive. “Bone marrow, blood, kidneys, and even parts of the liver and lungs can be given to someone else to save their lives. There are so many amazing stories about donations between family members, friends, or total strangers–it strikes me again and again as such a selfless act, and I find that so inspiring.

“It’s also just really cool. If you’re over 18, you can register at https://bethematch.org/ and they’ll send you a kit to collect your DNA from the inside of your cheek–mail it back to them and they’ll type the sample and add you to their list of people willing to donate bone marrow if someone who matches you needs it.”

Some of the Parts isn’t just about organ donation – music and individuality also play a huge rule. For example, Tallie’s friend Mel is passionate about taxidermy.

“[Mel] was the most fun character to write about, because she is so different than Tallie…and so different than me!” exclaimed Barnaby. “One of the challenges of writing fiction is making sure that our characters aren’t just variations of ourselves or people we know, and so I work hard to keep that from happening.”

And Barnaby succeeds in doing so.

In the end, even though Some of the Parts can be an aid in healing, it’s essentially any story that the reader needs it to be.

Author Hannah Barnaby. Courtesy of Hannah Barnaby.

Author Hannah Barnaby. Courtesy of Hannah Barnaby.

“It’s impossible to predict all the ways in which a reader can connect with a book. Maybe the story reflects their own experiences or maybe it provides a window into someone else’s, and I hope Some of the Parts does both. More than anything, I hope it helps readers feel less alone…and that it makes them laugh at least once!”

For more on Hannah Barnaby and Some of the Parts, check out the author’s website or follow her on Twitter.

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About Author

Alison Ng

Alison Ng is your average 21-year-old in love with trying new things (especially if that new thing happens to be food). She attends college in NYC and works in the book publishing industry.

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