Blog | Eugene Havens

How much should true love cost?

In this novel, two New Yorkers experience the best (and worst) kind of love.

True love is the most bittersweet love there is.
Author Eugene Havens

About Me

Eugene Havens is the founder of The Writing Thing Press. A graduate of the MFA program at The New School, Eugene is the author of Marble on a Table: A Novel. See Eugene's author page.

A love that grabs hold

The topic of my novel, selfless love, fascinates me and I hope some of you. What happens when love grabs hold of two people but asks for more than it gives? What if love requires both people to give everything to the other and then walk away, to be left with nothing but a sense of having loved well?

Marble on a Table: A Novel is the story of two very different people who share an attraction that ruins their lives, maybe for the better.

Love that requires sacrifice is a rare offshoot of the traditional love story.

Love that requires sacrifice is a rare offshoot of the traditional love story. Film buffs will recall the famous ending of Casablanca (1942). Star-crossed lovers Rick and Ilsa forego happiness for the greater good. Their selfless affair for the ages sets the film apart. It’s bittersweet and yet full of hope.

In charge

In today’s Hollywood, which remakes everything, does it seems strange that Casablanca is left untouched? You wonder if the film’s uncompromising ending is one reason. “For love to be true, sometimes it needs to end.”

I found the theme of sacrificial love daunting. Did selflessness mean love had to end in every case? No, but love would be “in charge” of the couple’s motivations. Which meant anything was possible, even disappointment.

Here’s the jacket synopsis for my debut novel, Marble on a Table:

Rasmus and Alli seek redemption in New York City, in an unexpected love story between two wounded outsiders pushed together by city chaos. They’re challenged to sacrifice everything they know to save the other, as a life hangs in the balance.

At a crossroads

Rasmus and Alli are strangers at a crossroads in their respective lives. They don’t know what works anymore, but their surprise meeting reminds them of what doesn’t work. They view each other as yet another distraction, a complication in the way of finding a life breakthrough. Slowly, they begin to suspect the other person is the answer.

Only, it can’t be. Rasmus and Alli are complete opposites. Theirs isn’t a superficial clash of personalities, but a serious disagreement of belief systems. Their identities are rooted in trying to change the world in very different ways. They aren’t looking to change themselves.

Theirs isn’t a superficial clash of personalities …

Rasmus Smith, the novel’s main character and narrator, is a jaded New Yorker and practical realist. After seven years of living in the city, Rasmus has amassed a track record he isn’t proud of. To make amends, Rasmus decides to pursue good karma. Introspection might be fine for the soul. It isn’t profitable for a New Yorker who needs to make rent.

Culture clash

A twenty-something in transition, Rasmus finds himself a sudden outsider in New York. His plan to follow good karma doesn’t factor in city realities. New York is built on a zero-sum system. Someone has to lose for another to win. A conscience doesn’t help. Rasmus finds selfless living to be a downright liability, which confuses him further.

Alli doesn’t only show conscience in New York City. She wears it proudly.

As Rasmus recognizes this culture clash, he runs into an unlikely fellow New Yorker. Alli doesn’t only show conscience in New York City. She wears it proudly. Alli’s concept of the heart is much larger than Rasmus could have imagined. He’s taken aback by such a selfless person. 

When Rasmus meets Alli, it’s as a recipient of her charitable nature. Rasmus is indebted. He has every reason to thank her. Instead, Rasmus cautions Alli to stop putting herself at risk in a city full of dangers. To follow her conscience, Alli must make herself vulnerable. Rasmus’s advice is firm: New York isn’t the place to show too much compassion.

Risking it all

Alli isn’t intimidated by a rough environment. Her reply is to ask Rasmus to open himself up as well, to be vulnerable in order to change his outlook and to make the city a more compassionate place. What if Rasmus struggles because he can’t take that final step and let go?

What remains if they are selfless in ways they never wanted to be?

Rasmus wants out of New York. Alli is here to pursue a new life. They’re on different paths but find circumstances drawing them together. Rasmus and Alli are confronted with the idea that to hold onto their principles, they must change. But to change is to lose themselves.

Their ideals haunt them with a choice. What if the causes they live for require a sacrifice, in a moment of crisis, at the cost of their own futures? They are basically strangers. What remains if they are selfless in ways they never wanted to be? Whether they should love in that way, and whether they can is what the novel ultimately is about.

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