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“I’m Carolyn Jess-Cooke and I will be reading from the prologue of my novel The Guardian Angel’s Journal.
When I died I became a guardian angel.
Nandita broke the news to me in the afterlife without any ice-breaking small talk or comfort-inducing chit-chat. You know the way dentists ask what your Christmas plans are right before they yank out a tooth? Well, I can tell you there was none of that. There was simply this:
Margot is dead, child. Margot is dead.
No way, I said. I’m not dead.
She said it again. Margot is dead. She kept saying it. She took both my hands in hers and said: I know how hard this is. I left five kids behind in Pakistan with no papa. Everything will be all right.
I had to get out of there. I looked around and saw that we were in a valley surrounded by cypress trees with a small lake a couple of metres away from where we stood. Bulrushes fenced the edge of the water, their velvet heads like microphones waiting to broadcast my reply. Well, there wouldn’t be one. I spotted a scribble of grey road in the distance amongst the fields. I started walking.
Wait, Nandita said. There’s someone I want you to meet.
Who? I said. God? This is the summit of Absurdity and we’re hammering in the flag.
I’d like you to meet Ruth, Nandita said, taking my hand and leading me towards the lake.
Where? I leaned forward, looking amongst the trees in the distance.
There, she said, pointing at my reflection.
And then she pushed me in.
Some guardian angels are sent back to watch over siblings, children, people they cared about. I returned to Margot. I returned to myself. I am my own guardian angel, a monastic scribe of the biography of regret, stumbling over my memories, carried away in the tornado of a history that I cannot change.
I shouldn’t say ‘cannot change’. Guardian angels, as we all know, prevent our deaths a thousand times over. It is the duty of every guardian angel to protect against every word, deed and consequence that does not correspond to free will. We’re the ones who make sure no accidents happen. But change – that’s our business. We change things every second of every minute of every day.
Every day I see behind the scenes, the experiences I was meant to have, the people I was meant to have loved, and I want to take some celestial pen and change the whole thing. I want to write a script for myself. I want to write to this woman, the woman I was, and tell her everything I know.
And I want to say to her:
Tell me how you died.”
ABOUT CAROLYN JESS-COOKE:
Carolyn Jess-Cooke is the author of the award-winning poetry collection, INROADS (2010) and THE GUARDIAN ANGEL’S JOURNAL (2011), which is published in 20 languages. She was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1978 and now lives in England with her family. Her new novel, THE BOY WHO COULD SEE DEMONS, is published in May 2012.
“I spent a month at Varuna in June-July 2005, having been awarded the Tyrone Guthrie Prize for Poetry. I worked on my poetry collection INROADS during that time, writing most of it in the Eleanor Dark room.” Carolyn Jess-Cooke
Shakespeare on Film (Wallflower, 2007)
Second Takes: Critical Approaches to the Film
Sequel (co-edited with Con Verevis at Monash University, SUNY, 2009)
Film Sequels (Edinburgh Uni Press, 2009)
Apocalyptic Shakespeares (co-edited with M Croteau, McFarland, 2009)
Inroads (Seren, 2010)
The Guardian Angel’s Journal (Piatkus/Little Brown, 2011)
The Boy Who Could See Demons (Piatkus/Little, Brown, 2012)
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