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“This story is for all the slightly broken people out there.” ~ Patrick Rothfuss, June 2014
The above is excerpted from the author’s endnote of The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, and aptly sums up this neat novella. If you aren’t familiar with Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicles, then this story will likely make no sense, and will have no impact on you. For fans, however, it provides a sweet tangent.
As Rothfuss acknowledges in his endnote, Silent Things is not like other books. There is no traditional plot, no secondary characters, no dialogue. Everything is filtered through the eyes of Auri, a wisp of a girl whose origins and history are unknown, but are hinted at in this book. What is implied is dark.
Auri has a penchant for putting things in their proper places. In her purview, objects “belong” together, and are anthropomorphized with human emotions, detectable only by Auri herself. This is her life’s work: Seek out lost objects in the Underthing (her home) and make sure they find their proper names and places.
At one point, Auri begins to spin a bit out of control. Things are not going well for her, and she gets frantic. During this section of the story, I had no trouble drawing parallels between Auri’s mentality and mental illness or post traumatic stress disorder. And that is when I realized, that’s exactly the point. Reading Rothfuss’ endnote only confirmed it.
We don’t know what happened to Auri to make her “the way she is,” but we know it was traumatic. Her main goal in life is to make herself small. If that doesn’t sound like a person with depression, I don’t know what does.
When you think about it, those of us suffering with mental illness are all like Auri: Struggling to put things in their proper places, to bring the world around us into harmony by exerting a little control. Our need for proper placement isn’t as literal as Auri’s, but is very real nonetheless. Readers don’t know the reason Auri thrives on order, anymore than a person with OCD knows why he is obsessed with keeping to a certain regimen.
It should go without saying that I related to Auri, particularly in my pre-treatment-for-depression days. I’d be skipping along, thinking that I had everything under my control, until one little off-kilter happenstance would send me spiraling. Routines are comforting, for Auri and for us.
This story-that-isn’t-a-story is sweet, and makes me long to envelop Auri in a hug. Suddenly, her appearances in The Kingkiller Chronicles resonate much more strongly.
Rothfuss says he didn’t mean to write this story, at least not the way it is. Most readers won’t understand it, or appreciate it, even those who enjoy The Kingkiller Chronicles. However, I think it is exactly the story he was meant to write.