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Catalyst by Tracy Richardson: young adult fiction as a call to action

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Catalyst by Tracy Richardson: young adult fiction as a call to action

Catalyst frames a portrait of collective humanity for each of us to find our likenesses, rendered within a profile of the human condition. Richardson in effect asks us to examine each face to uncover, discover what shows: a purposeful life toward the greater good, a singular purpose to acquire the greatest personal gain, a sense of confusion in what feels like purposelessness. ..etc.  

I read into the night, living within the exploration of moral responsibility cycling inside the realms of archaeology, business, conscience,  denial, ethics, fragility, all the way to xenophobia, and along the thin line between suspension of disbelief and Carl Sagan's reminder, “We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” 

Narrated from the point of view of Marcie, we’re immediately thrust into her psyche and what follows is all very real. The culmination is the stark realization that the citizen who believes in personal responsibility for the well-being of this place called Earth is being crushed beneath the well-heeled big business/federal government collusion to grab what you can now and who cares about the seventh generation to come. If page one turns you off because science fiction is not your thing, please keep reading anyway. Let that teenager within you resurface if you’ve smothered that essential being whose spark of purposeful essentiality got stomped upon on your way to wage-earner.

Exactly who is the keeper of the fire—of our inner core, of the well-being of all that  surrounds us, beyond the easy cognitive senses of sight, touch, hearing, smell and  into the ether as a seeker beyond, always on a quest to be part of cosmic well-being through caring deeply every day about how what we do makes a positive impact to give and receive joy in being alive. Perhaps I was primed for confronting Catalyst, having recently re-read the wisdom book, Keepers of the Fire: Journey to the Tree of Life based on Black Elk’s Vision ,” story & paintings by Eagle Walking Turtle.” It's a quest for balance and unity in all we do, seek to do.

Catalyst confronts the issue squarely: who speaks up, who denies; who saves us from harm, who slings manure against the walls of our farmhouse when we won’t buy into ‘fracking’ because we know the proven consequences.   What’s in this book might as well be in today’s headlines. Don’t believe in earthly truthfulness, don’t believe in cosmic messages, don’t believe in taking responsibility.

Reading Catalyst sent me back to re-reading Harold Bloom, Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? because at the core of Marcie’s narrative is a quest for wisdom…and in teenage impetuousness, to act —underscore here: wisely. Richardson delivers a straightforward narrative with a clear ear for how people of all ages in today’s world communicate. What she sneaks in along with Marcie, as the protagonist, Leo as the antagonist, and a cast of others, are Lorraine and Zeke. 

Are they paranormal beings in our scheme of people who can summon something beyond the ordinary within themselves?  After all, what are the requirements for sainthood but being above the make-do norms? And isn’t the message within the Wizard of Oz nothing less than, you have it within yourself to do what seems impossible, miraculous. And isn’t our beloved Christmas catalog filled with angels and a space-traveling Santa?    

The setting for Catalyst is Angel Mounds at the cusp of the Ohio River within the palm of Illinois and Indiana. When an archaeological dig transforms into a clash between those who seek to preserve family-owned farms vs. an energy industry intent on fracking for a quick-buck energy source, the canvas of characters is enlarged. Woven within these two strands is a coming of age story on multiple levels. It's Marcie's story, but in truth, she gives sway to much more.

Throughout his singular perspective of seeking wisdom as an elder-journey, Harold Bloom confronts us with what makes us human at every age and on every stage: “The mind always returns to its needs for beauty, truth, and insight.”  This hunger for our essential core of humanity resides even within those among us who, in their denials of what was, is, and will be, are hungering for the embrace of love they deny to themselves. 

Whose job is it to bring deniers into the larger embrace and save us all, now and forever?

Meet Marcie in Catalyst. Her spunk warms the heart.  I like to believe I'm alongside her in that cosmic portrait of do-it-nowers.

Publication date for Catalyst is listed as June 2, 2020, by Brown Books Publishing Group,  More about Indianapolis-based author Tracy Richardson is here:


Among my recent email messages is one from Butler University directing my attention to The Lacy School of Business Ethics Series,  three conversations with top business leaders exploring how COVID-19 is affecting the way they work and the communities they serve. Episodes can be found on Spotify and BuzzSprout. The first episode, a conversation with Old National Bank Chairman and CEO Jim Ryan, is available now. More information about the series can be found at  Lacy Business Ethics Series Podcast

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