Mindszenty grad Madar publishes her second novel

Bemus Point resident Deborah Madar published her second novel, “Dark Riddle,” last month. Submitted Photo

A graduate of Cardinal Mindszenty High School and SUNY Fredonia, Deborah Madar has always considered western New York home and even featured its unique places in her first novel, “Convergence.” Since she retired from teaching, she now calls Florida “home” for part of the year. Her brand new novel “Dark Riddle” was released last month and blends her experiences in both parts of the country to tell the story of a grieving mother’s discovery of the cold, dark world that her son faced alone.

Many know Madar from her many years of teaching in Chautauqua County, including Brocton and Silver Creek central schools, SUNY Fredonia and Jamestown Community College. She spent the last 15 years of her career at Mayville Central School and was part of the merger with Chautauqua Central School in 1996.

“‘Dark Riddle’ is a work of fiction, but I always take from reality,” Madar told the OBSERVER. “This book is about a fictitious lake-side community in central New York. I did clearly have in my frame of reference the merger experience of Chautauqua and Mayville schools, as I was a faculty member at Mayville at the time. I think that’s a really interesting phenomenon that not a lot of people know about unless you’ve lived through it and taught through it.”

In Madar’s experience, the merger that resulted in Chautauqua Lake Central School District was a very positive experience, but she noted that this is not always the case. “In the book, if anything could go wrong with two communities coming together, it did,” she said. “This is the backdrop for the story.”

“Dark Riddle” is the story of a struggling single mother of five Gina Clayton, who seeks to understand the unexpected actions of her son, Luke, known for his serious nature and dependability. One day, the sixteen-year-old, a “good kid” by all accounts, commits a heinous crime and then takes his own life, leaving no explanation. All Gina finds is a short story in her dead son’s pocket. “She becomes obsessed with what influences played into her son’s decision,” Madar explained. “The author of the short story and Gina, who are strangers initially, end up investigating together what took place.”

Madar began writing the novel in 2014, two years after the Sandy Hook shooting. Although Madar had already retired from teaching then, she recalled the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 and how that event shaped teacher training and school protocol at her school district and around the country.

However, she had no idea another school shooting — the deadliest one since Sandy Hook — would hit so close to home.

“We were there in Parkland, Florida when the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting occurred,” Madar explained. “My Cardinal Mindszenty classmate’s granddaughters are Parkland students, and one of them lost her best friend, Meadow Pollack, that day.”

Although “Dark Riddle” is not about the shooter but about his mother, Madar said that experience and her many years of teaching prior to that day informed her decision to write the novel. “I really became interested in this from the book ‘Far from the Tree’ and from reading an interview in The New Yorker of the father of Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter.” “Far from the Tree” by Andrew Solomon shares the stories of over 300 families of exceptional children, including prodigies, those with severe disabilities and those who become criminals.

“My novel is really about the mother and her journey as she explores and tries to understand what part of this was her influence to make this happen,” Madar explained. “It’s not so much a book about a school shooting, but that’s the catalyst for her growth, her journey.”

Like her first novel, “Dark Riddle” is a psychological mystery. Madar explained, “I did not set out to put all these pieces together into a beautifully solved puzzles, because I don’t think that ever happens in these cases. It does explore reasons why kids do this, and the ending is hopeful. I wrote an epilogue, just so that could happen.”

“Dark Riddle” is available to order from Off the Beaten Path bookstore in Lakewood. The novel is also available in print and digital formats on Amazon. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Madar is unsure when she will be able to schedule talks and events, but is hopeful that her May 16 book-signing at Off the Beaten Path will take place. As she did with her first novel, Madar is hoping to plan talks with area book clubs and is even open to virtual meetings now. “I don’t know if it’s the teacher in me or what, but I love talking to readers who understood or even saw more than I did about a character or an event in my book!” said Madar.

To learn more about Madar and her books, visit www.deborahmadar.com or email her at debmadar@gmail.com.


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