“Franklin Rock is the New Age Candide!” —Jane Stanton Hitchcock, 2020 Hammett Prize winner for Bluff
“A page-turner that leaves you feeling good about the future.” —Donna Brazile
There’s a moment in Franklin Rock when Franklin’s professor tells him, “If you pay attention, you can see the future in the past.” It’s hard not to feel those words reverberate during this difficult time in American history. It can be difficult to have faith in something better. But Franklin Rock (Greenbriar Publishing), a gentle novel that blends time travel with metaphysical inspiration, presents the case for hope by presenting a hero for all humanity, thanks to author and physician Mark E. Klein.
Klein has created a hero reminiscent of The Chosen One in the Hero’s Journey archetype described by Joseph Campbell, and Franklin has much in common with Siddhartha, Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, Peter Parker and Forrest Gump. While there is no epic battle scene, Franklin does experience a spiritual awakening, receives supernatural aid, encounters threshold guardians, must face challenges and temptations, and has a transformation that allows him to bestow his gifts on humankind. There is even a mysterious man only known as Govinda — which also happens to have been the name of Siddhartha’s best friend and companion during his own search for enlightenment — who becomes one of Franklin’s helpers.
STRANGE EXPERIENCES AND STRANGER CLUES
Franklin is an interesting hero, a college student who is surprisingly self-aware and yet determined to be a “regular guy.” While one of his best friends is a slave to his grades, and another floats in a drug-fueled, sybaritic haze, Franklin prefers balance — enough fun to enjoy his youth without squandering it. He’s a model of intelligent restraint.
In spite of this quality, Franklin searches for the answers behind the “spells” that incapacitate him at the oddest times. These episodes include flashes of memory so vivid he feels as though he is actually there. To observers, it appears he is having some sort of neurological episode. After a lifetime of coping and diagnoses, that explanation seems wrong. Franklin feels as though he’s on the cusp of something extraordinary.
Unexpected support is offered by his advisor, Professor Charles Niemeyer, who confirms that the dreams Franklin has had since childhood are proof that he can move through time. Franklin is excited to finally have answers and a guide — when his mentor suddenly dies, leaving behind more riddles than before. Professor Niemeyer leaves Franklin a strange letter, stating that they will meet again, and an even stranger book. On the cover is the printed title, Franklin Rock: The Man Who Saved the World. The inside is entirely blank. Franklin again is riddled with doubt.
A JOURNEY OF SELF-DISCOVERY
After graduation, Franklin takes a job as a hospital orderly and makes the acquaintance of an elderly cancer patient with a surprising connection to his late professor. This man, Maurice Burnside, becomes his Yoda, opening his mind to possibility and reinforcing the values that will serve humanity.
In an interesting departure from the usual Hero’s Journey script — where the hero must defeat a terrible foe in an ordeal of wits and courage — Franklin’s ordeal is not against some otherworldly creature, but rather of letting go of the extraordinary woman he loves. First love and the ability to let it go becomes Franklin’s challenge.
As Franklin’s powers grow, he begins to travel not just to the past, but also into the future. The turning point comes when Franklin meets the most mysterious person of all — Doranto Durning. Doranto holds the key to Franklin’s most pressing questions about himself and the mystery of the blank book.
There’s a lot to admire about Franklin Rock. The book is a smooth blending of fantasy, science fiction and the Hero’s Journey, coupled with the spiritual underpinnings of books like Siddhartha and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Franklin’s enlightenment is shared with the reader, providing us with illumination about the world, our lives and the meaning of time. It’s the kind of self-care we need right now.