As Together We Will Go opens, 29-year-old Mark believes he’s never going to succeed at writing. He’s had suicidal thoughts since high school, he’s had enough of life, and he’s come up with a plan: a final bus trip, one last cross-country party with a group of like-minded souls who can’t carry the weight of life anymore.
J. Michael Straczynski’s novel follows this group of mostly young people intent on ending their lives. As the bus stops in several states to pick up passengers, the story cycles through all 12 characters’ perspectives, but six take center stage: the aforementioned Mark; Karen, a young woman with chronic pain; Tyler, a young man with a worsening hole in his heart; Vaughn, a 66-year-old widower with a painful secret; Lisa, whose bipolar disorder has led her to despair; and Shanelle, a lonely woman who has been bullied for her size. As the bus makes its way west, these characters connect, form alliances and deal with each other’s quirks and bad behavior.
Straczynski, a comic book writer, screenwriter and co-creator of Netflix’s “Sense8,” uses text messages, emails, online journal entries and audio transcripts to reveal the characters’ thoughts and actions, creating a 21st-century epistolary novel. Because of this format, the novel moves along quickly, although the characters’ thoughts occasionally blur together, especially when musing philosophically on the state of the world and their places in it.
But a late plot twist is satisfying, intensifying the characters’ bonds as they decide what to do. While a novel about characters planning to end their lives is not for everyone (as the introduction notes, “discretion is advised”), Together We Will Go is, in the end, about friendship and learning to love.