YA Novel Takes A Deeply Personal Look At Mental Illness

Natalka Burian. Photo Credit: Smith Publicity
Natalka Burian. Photo Credit: Smith Publicity

It’s hard enough to save someone who doesn’t want to be saved, but it’s another thing entirely when you’re only seventeen… and ‘someone’ is none other than your mom.

The debut YA novel from Natalka Burian, Welcome to the Slipstream is a quirky and deeply moving story centered on Van Lowell – a seventeen-year-old Eloise type who has spent her life following her peripatetic lifestyle-loving mother, Sofia, to far-flung destinations around the globe. For Van, normal has always been the cocoon of her strange, sturdy family – which up until recently included her nanny and “rock,” Ida – not needing anyone or anything else.

When Sofia, a consultant who is equal parts brilliant and mentally unstable, is hired to take the helm of a Las Vegas casino called the Silver Saddle, Van’s ‘normal’ changes virtually overnight. Soon, she’s made her first-ever friend (and maybe more) in a local boy named Alex, joined an all-girl Sleater-Kinney style band, and discovered the rush of performing live.

Things are looking up for the new girl in town. But with a mother like hers, stability can’t last long… especially when Sofia’s astrotherapist has convinced her to embark upon a “vision quest” to Sedona, disappearing across the desert and leaving Van in the lurch.

Welcome to the Slipstream takes a narrative turn as dizzying as Sofia’s mental state as Van buys a bus ticket and sets off into the desert to track Sofia down and bring her home – soon discovering her mother has been elevated to the status of cult prophet and robbed of her earthly possessions. Van must step up to outwit Laurel, the cult’s dynamic matriarch, and ultimately escape with her mother, uncovering a startling family secret along the way.

“A member of my immediate family has bipolar disorder, and it was important to me to get the influence and impact of the shifting waves in mental health right,” Burian, who herself has two young daughters, reveals. “Welcome to the Slipstream is about so many things, but mostly it’s about family, and how many different ways there are to be a part of one.

“I want readers to understand how complicated, thrilling, difficult, and magical it is to be part of a family,” she continues. “Even if – maybe especially if – the family is imperfect.”

Author, Natalka Burian received an MA from Columbia University, where she studied Eastern European literature with an emphasis on the work of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. She is the co-owner of two bars, Elsa and Ramona, in Brooklyn, and City of Daughters, a line of specialty cocktail goods. She is the co-founder of the Freya Project, a feminist fundraising reading series which supports small, non-profit organizations doing crucial work in communities that do not support that work. Welcome to the Slipstream is her first novel.

Photo credit: Smith Publicity
Photo credit: Smith Publicity

Find Natalka Burian on Twitter, Instagram, and at www.natalkaburian.com.



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