We, by Michael Landweber: Time-Traveling to a Painful Past

If you could talk to your childhood self, would that child listen?

We ($12.95, 194 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-166-8), a novel by debut author Michael Landweber, transports the narrator into his own past in the critical days before a family tragedy.

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We was a Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award for Short Prose and Independent Books. It won a bronze in the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award, General Fiction category.

We won ForeWord Magazine’s quarterly Debut Novelist Award. Here is an excerpt from the 5 Star Review:

“Reflective and introspective, yet highly charged with dramatic scenes in a race against time, this mesmerizing novel is a page-turner that will captivate even a jaded critic…. As Ben interacts with Binky in this touching and often humorous tale, the far-fetched aspect of this unusual occurrence is accepted. Drawn into the warring conversation between adult and child—parts of the same personality—one will learn what constitutes real maturity opposed to merely grown-up behavior when a sibling’s life is threatened. Striking is the dual perspective within the same protagonist, an unusual angle that can be difficult to implement…. [In We, Landweber] makes not only an impressive debut, but has already succeeded at an experimental undertaking few could achieve.”

–Julia Ann Charpentier, ForeWord Clarion Reviews

“Landweber apparently approached this project with a go-big-or-go-home attitude. He aimed high and hit the mark, pulling off a fusion of literary novel and psychological drama.”  Read more …

—Tom Young, The Washington Independent Review of Books

“Landweber writes beautifully, with soaring imagination, heart and soul …. We is a wonderful mix of psychological thriller, science fiction, and love story – love of self, love of family, love of life. I find myself at a loss for words (a rare thing) when describing the beauty and profound meaning of this novel. It has touched me deeply. It should be on every bestseller list.”  Read more ….

—Claudia Sparks, Mockingbird Hill Cottage Blog

“Ultimately, We is about a man struggling with his own inner demons and failures while occupying the mind of his younger self, hoping to reverse time and alter a devastating outcome. Will he succeed? If he does, what will the implications be? These questions will be answered by the end of the book, as Landweber leaves  the reader with the satisfied sense that no stone was left unturned. If you ask me, there is truly nothing better in life than getting lost in a good book as time stands still, and that’s exactly what happened when I read We by Michael Landweber from cover to cover in a day. If you read one book this Spring, make it We. You won’t regret it.”  Read more ….

–Allison Hiltz, The Book Wheel

“[WE] is totally unlike anything I have read…. The writing is tight and vibrant. The ambiance of confusion is very well recreated. In some passages, it felt as if the author had written under the influence of some chemicals on his brain, or very high fever! Seriously, how did he come up with so much imagery, like subliminal pictures and thoughts? And sometimes it was super funny, for instance when Ben helps Binky with multiplication tables, or when he tells him secrets about sex to share with the younger kids at school. So if you want to read something different and unusual, and are ready for a confusing adventure outside your comfort zone, you will enjoy WE.”  Read more ….

—Emma, Words and Peace Blog

“The best part of Michael Landweber’s tale is the way he builds and differentiates between Ben and Binky. They are one and the same, simply from different ages, but they are also two very different characters: Ben has lived over four decades and has the experience and knowledge that comes with that life while Binky is an innocent and naive seven-year-old. Their interaction is what moves the book along and seeing how Ben will approach the challenge he’s facing – helping his sister while he’s essentially just a voice able to see through the eyes of Binky – makes for an intriguing story as well as one that showcases Landweber’s obvious talents as a writer.”  Read more ….

—No More Grumpy Bookseller Blog

We is a family story at its heart, wrapped in a suspenseful, gripping, and totally original sci fi narrative. The unforgettable double consciousness will keep you up reading until the emotionally gratifying end.”

—Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Wonder Bread Summer

“What if we could change the past? What if the past didn’t necessarily want to change? Michael Landweber’s We is part sci-fi concept novel, part psychological thriller with literary edges: Landweber deftly weaves time travel, Jungian psychology, and the butterfly effect into a suspenseful but also emotionally engaging novel.”

—Jen Michalski, author of The Tide King

We is a captivating, genre-bending psychological mystery that’s equal parts It’s a Wonderful Life and The Twilight Zone.”

—Dave Housley, author of Ryan Seacrest is Famous

“Thought-provoking, touching, imaginative …. a promising debut.”  Read more ….

—Gayle Weisswasser, Everyday I Write the Book Blog

After an accident, forty-year-old Ben Arnold regains consciousness in the kitchen of the house he grew up in. Only he feels different, lighter somehow. Something is horribly wrong. Ben is swept into the arms of his mother, who he hasn’t seen in twenty years. She calls him by his childhood nickname, Binky. He sees a younger, unbroken version of his father. His estranged brother is there, reverted back to his awkward teenage self. Finally, adding horror to his confusion, he glimpses his older sister Sara as she runs out the door to meet her boyfriend.

Sara, whose absence he has felt every day since her death.

Ben is a mere hitchhiker, a parasite in the brain of seven-year-old Binky, and his younger self is not happy to have him there.

It is three days before his sister will be attacked. Ben knows he has to save Sara but first he must gain Binky’s trust. Even if he can get Binky to say the right words, to do the right thing, who will believe that a young boy can foretell the future?

Says Landweber, “Every parent has started a lecture to their children with the phrase, ‘When I was your age …’ The urge to say just that to my own kids got me thinking about what it would be like to be able to talk to myself as a child about mistakes I knew I had made. Could I convince myself to do things differently? That was the question that started me down the road to writing We.”

Michael Landweber grew up in Madison, WI, went to school in Princeton, NJ, and Ann Arbor, MI, met his wife in Tokyo and currently lives with her and their two children in Washington, DC. He has worked at The Japan Times, the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of State, Partnership for a Secure America and the Small Business Administration. Mike is an Associate Editor at Potomac Review and a contributor on film and TV for Pop Matters. His short stories have appeared in places such as Gargoyle, Barrelhouse, American Literary Review, Fugue, Fourteen Hills, and The MacGuffin. We is his first novel. Click here to find Michael online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

I am you, I said. I’m just a part of you. That’s why no one else can hear me.

Like in the cartoons.

I didn’t understand, but Binky continued before I could seek clarification.

Sometimes the guy or the cat or something is about to do something and then there’s like a little one of him on one shoulder and another little one of him on the other shoulder and one is white and one is red.

An angel and a devil, I said.

Yeah, maybe. One tells him good things and one tells him bad things. I think it was a cat. Or maybe Bugs Bunny.

You know that they are a part of him, I said. Even though they’re talking to him.

Yeah, ’cause they look just like him. Just smaller. And different colors. And one of them has wings and the other one has horns. But you don’t look like me.

That’s true, I said.

Yeah, one is bad and one is good.

The angel is good and the devil is bad, I said.

Yeah.

The silence returned. The contemplative pause. Everything around me grew prickly, like a bath filled with warm water and needles.

Which one are you?

I was stumped. We are all both. Angel and devil. The inseparable dichotomy. Better to just say I’m the angel and be done with it. The moment had passed, however. Something had happened while I was thinking. Something in the classroom.

Binky sat stock still in his chair. I could feel the muscles tensed throughout his small frame, accentuating its dimensions and limits. Short breaths swirled around us like wind in a tunnel, trapped and impotent. I abandoned my thoughts and returned my attention to the classroom to discern the source of our disturbance.

Ms. Mittewag stared at us. And I felt what Binky felt—this woman hated us.

“Benedict! Are you LISTENING?”

She barked out the syllables of the last word, turning each into a threat.

We looked left and right. We sat in the fifth row and all the other kids on either side of us were standing. Looking at us. Smirking. Waiting for the ax to fall.

What happened to the fourth row? They were supposed to do eights and nines? They had finished. We had been distracted.

Ms. Mittewag motioned at the other children to sit. With a single slender, well-manicured finger—more suited to a princess than a witch—she beckoned us to our feet.

Binky stood.

I could feel the slight tremor in his jaw. Even if he knew the answer to the next question, his brain might be unable to retrieve it.

“Benedict! Tens and Elevens!”

I wrested myself away from Binky. This was no big deal. Who cares if a second-grade teacher with a Napoleon complex yells at you? It doesn’t mean much in the general scheme of things. And what’s easier than the tens in a times tables? Come on, read my mind. Listen to me.

But Binky was frozen. She might as well have slapped him. He tapped his tongue against the inside of his top teeth rhythmically and waited for salvation. Inside, there was a rush of sound—no thought, only emotion.

Binky, listen to me, I said. Just repeat what I say.

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