‘Attachment Patterns’: La Jollan Stephen Metcalfe’s new novel looks at the importance of connection
Much like the life of its protagonist, the latest novel by La Jolla writer Stephen Metcalfe has undergone a series of changes since its inception.
“Attachment Patterns,” released April 28, was started in 2019 and follows an artist looking for connection.
Written from the point of view of his daughter, the novel details the life of artist Robert Boone, including his heartbreaks and triumphs, ultimately taking him to greater self-understanding, Metcalfe said.
“I’d like to think that in some ways it addresses the acute mental health concerns in our modern society, stressing the importance of human relationships,” he said.
Metcalfe started writing novels in 2015 after decades of writing plays and film screenplays. His work includes “Emily,” which premiered in 1985 at San Diego’s Old Globe theater and was named the year’s best play by the San Diego Critics Association, and films such as “Half a Lifetime” for HBO (1986) and “Jacknife,” which starred Robert De Niro and Ed Harris (1989).
“I worked for a long time in the film industry and ... around 2010, I wanted to continue those things but see what I could do with fiction,” Metcalfe said. “I got the first novel published [‘The Tragic Age’] in 2015, and this has been my path ever since.”
His second novel, “The Practical Navigator,” was published in 2017.
He finished the first draft of “Attachment Patterns” in 2019, but unlike his previous two novels, he didn’t rush to get it published.
“The world started to go crazy [with the COVID-19 pandemic], so I held onto it,” Metcalfe said. “I’m glad I did because I kept working on it and changed it. I didn’t think I would write a book about mental health and wanting to connect, but it ended up being that way. It ended up being more relevant to what people needed [in light of the pandemic].”
His first two novels were set in La Jolla, but “Attachment Patterns” is set in Connecticut and New York, where Metcalfe spent much of his youth.
The story centers on Boone, who is told he is going to die. “He goes through this life crisis and his doctors tell him he should go to therapy,” Metcalfe said.
Rather than follow doctors’ orders, the artist isolates himself and realizes he doesn’t trust anyone.
While revising the manuscript, Metcalfe changed the perspective so Boone’s grown daughter, an aspiring novelist, became the narrator.
“She talks about how her father has to go through this learning process. She delves into his past, his work, all about him,” Metcalfe said. “It explores a man’s past and present and takes him to a place of greater self-understanding and connectedness. He finds that living in isolation and not trusting or communicating has taken its toll.”
By switching to the daughter’s perspective, the story changed to “follow this guy’s path and see all the growth he had to go through,” Metcalfe said. “So much of that is about that he moves forward and accepts, he works hard for himself, he sees the value in living a full life.”
To celebrate the release, Metcalfe will have a book signing at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 25, at Warwick’s bookstore, 7812 Girard Ave., La Jolla. Learn more at warwicks.com. ◆