Growing up the outcast in an infamous family of psychics, Nate Black never learned how to control his empath abilities. Then after five years without contact, his estranged twin turns up dead in New York City. The claim of suicide doesn’t ring true, especially when a mysterious vision tells Nate it was murder. Now his long-hated gift is his only tool to investigate.
Hitching from his tiny Texas town, Nate is picked up by Trent, a gorgeous engineer who thrives on sarcasm and skepticism. The heat that sparks between them is instant and intense, and Nate ends up trusting Trent with his secrets—something he’s never done before. But once they arrive in the city, the secrets multiply when Nate discovers an underground supernatural community, more missing psychics, and frightening information about his own talent.
Nate is left questioning his connection with Trent. Are their feelings real, or are they being propelled by abilities Nate didn’t realize he had? His fear of his power grows, but Nate must overcome it to find his brother’s killer and trust himself with Trent’s heart.
The Community, book 1
331 e-book pages
Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
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More Precisely, A Book Review That’s Not Quite A Book Review
This post is meant to be a fun examination of a specific nugget of Insight that caught my attention and made me ask questions, and my lone quest to find some answers.
I’m not a huge believer in paranormal stuff. I like provable, rational, science-based facts, but I know the weird when I feel it, and I generally want to leave it alone. I’m not a scholar of any one thing in particular, I’m a researcher of stuff I’m interested in until I get bored. And I’m a cynical skeptic if ya will — therefore I don’t believe everything I read. But give me plenty of thread, and I can tie just about anything together if I’m so inclined.
This forthcoming ramble came about because of Nate and Trent’s road trip, particularly one of the stops they made along the way. Then it led me to question the other stops, their origin, and destination and what they might’ve had in common in relation to the psychic threads of Insight. Hopefully, it’s spoiler free — or at least not spoilery to major plot points. Also, whatever parallels I’ve drawn aren’t necessarily straight lines, so take me with a grain of salt and toss it over your shoulder.
Here we go:
In Insight, Nate hitches a ride with Trent somewhere in/around/near Houston, both are going in the SAME DIRECTION with the SAME DESTINATION — NYC. They make some notable, somewhat unplanned, stops along the way:
New Orleans, LA > Jacksonville, FL > Virginia Beach, VA
My curiosity was initially piqued with the Virginia Beach stop. It’s where I live, so YAY! for a hometown mention. I was so excited I tweeted about it, tagging The Great Santino, because I don’t see my city in books very often.
I kept on truckin’ with the reading…then I heard a little click in the back of my mind alerting me to some possible psychic connections in these road-trip stops.
Because WHY Virginia Beach? It’s not exactly a pit-stop along a major interstate. To get here, you have to mean it. It’s a tourist destination, so clearly, plenty of people mean to come here. But, for two guys on a road trip and traveling North on I-95? To make the stop worthwhile, they’re gonna lose a few hours of productive travel time. It’s around two hours from several I-95 exits that lead to the beach. I don’t know how long they kept their toes in the sand…but Virginia Beach is not a casual stop on the way to anywhere. Though, the drive north toward New York via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and the Eastern Shore is a beautiful stretch.
Then it really hit me. Virginia Beach has a mildly famous connection to the psychic world, and I wondered if Santino knew this. I sent a follow-up tweet, no answers yet…. He’s a busy guy and doesn’t react to all his mentions (I don’t expect him to).
So then I wondered about other psychic/paranormal connections to these other, seemingly random-stop localities, New Orleans and Jacksonville. Why did they make those stops? And what about the two cities that bookend the road trip Houston and NYC?
Let’s look closer, shall we?
New Orleans: I probably don’t need to say anything about New Orleans and the deep connections to Voodoo or Hoodoo and other paranormal and ghostly phenomena. There are some streets in the French Quarter where I swear you can feel a psychic sizzle in the air. Advice: Keeeeeeep walking, but respectfully enjoy as much as you dare. Keep your hands to yourself in the Voodoo shop. Also, the cemeteries are full of haints whether you believe in that sort of thing or not.
Jacksonville is somewhat neatly sandwiched between St. Augustine and Savannah, Georgia. St. Augustine is the oldest European-established settlement in the US that’s been continuously occupied since its founding in 1565. Who thinks the ghost hunter outfits haven’t recorded some paranormal activity? Savannah is known for its ghost tours and shares some similar threads of psychic and voodoo lore with New Orleans. This is a stretch, but Jacksonville has a building on the historical register called the Morocco Temple. It’s also known as Morocco Temple, Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic which is an old name for what are now known as the Shriners, an arm of the Freemasons. Erected in 1910 and designed by NYC architect Henry John Klutho, it uses ancient Egyptian-themed symbols. Murals depict Freemason and Shriner history and scenes of Jesus, King Solomon, and Mecca. What do the Shriners and Freemasons have to do with psychics? GOOGLE IT, and you’ll turn up plenty. I searched “Freemason connection to psychics,” and I don’t have the time or room here to get into it all without sounding like an Illuminati conspiracy theorist. All that’s a sketchy connection to Insight, I realize. But, I’ve decided that Jacksonville might be sort of a metaphysic midway between Savannah and St. Augustine and that Nate and Trent were drawn to a sort of equatorial zone between the two. Logical? (Nod your head yes….)
Virginia Beach: In addition to being a tourist city, lovely beach town, home of beloved no-longer-with-us author V.C. Andrews, and home to the East Coast Surfing Championship, it’s also the international headquarters of an organization called the Association for Research and Enlightenment, founded in 1931 by Virginia Beach resident and self-proclaimed clairvoyant and mystic, Edgar Cayce (b.1877, d.1945). The A.R.E. is still around with centers in 37 countries.
A.R.E was founded….
“to research and explore subjects such as holistic health, ancient mysteries, personal spirituality, dreams and dream interpretation, intuition, philosophy and reincarnation. A.R.E.’s stated mission is to help people change their lives for the better through the ideas and information found in the Edgar Cayce readings.”
Sounds relatively innocuous on the surface. But, the thing to note is that to establish an organization like this, Cayce probably had to be very careful with the descriptive words used in the Mission Statement since mystical things like fortune-telling were illegal in many places at that time.
It’s said that Cayce was known to go into trance-like states and answer prophetic questions on future events and make medical diagnoses. He’s credited with over 14,000 readings and prophecies during his lifetime and had a clientele of some notable figures including Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Edison. Some other abilities that have been attributed to him are astral projection, mediumship, and seeing auras.
More info on Edgar Cayce: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Cayce
Houston: Insight begins in a small town just outside Houston, Texas where Nate’s family keeps a low-key profile for REASONS. I can’t find much in the way of the metaphysical or paranormal that stands out about the area — no more or less than anywhere else. But, I do know that the Association for Research and Enlightenment has its ONLY US BASED REGIONAL OFFICE in Houston.
Then finally, New York City: As New York is the largest melting pot of people from all over the world and is layered in rich history, it stands to reason that from the time Native Americans inhabited the area, thru present-day with the centuries of immigrants teeming the shores, SOME folks would’ve brought along some psychic abilities. I was gonna bullshit all the way through this one, but I’ve been having way too much fun concocting this post so I figured I’d give Google a whirl. I found this article “Psychic New York” https://www.keen.com/articles/psychic/psychic-new-york where, among saying that along its history NYC “became a Mecca for the alternative, the experimental, and the unusual,” it also states:
“Nineteenth-Century New York became a breeding ground for alternative systems of faith that spawned the Utopian Movement, Mormonism, and Seventh Day Adventism, and launched the exploration of new psychic frontiers in spiritualism, mesmerism, and hypnotism.”
That pretty much confirmed what I’d been thinking…good to see I’m not the only one.
We can possibly tie a messy bow between Jacksonville and New York with the Freemasons. The Grand Lodge of New York is the largest and oldest in the United States with a fascinating membership list. Was the NYC architect I mentioned earlier, who lived out his life in Jacksonville, a Freemason or Shriner? I can’t find proof. But lots of members keep their Masonic affiliations secret, and lots of records have been destroyed over the years. Make of that what you will. I’m not exactly a betting sort, but I’d put fifty cents on it.
Then, too, can some loose commonalities possibly be found in those types of secret organizations and The Community in Insight. Hmmmm???
WHY THESE STOPS?
It’s probably safe to say that every city and town has its share of mystical lore. It’s also probably safe to say that most places have at least one palm-reader or fortune-teller listed in the yellow pages. And, most places have a secretish society affiliation whether it’s Freemasons, Shriners, or similar Benevolent Order of Something Non-Nefarious. My point is not that the locations in Insight are any more special or mystical than others (except New Orleans…and maybe New York), rather what pulled them to those stops along their way? Why those cities? I think there’s more to it than just some random road-trip adventure or Santino throwing darts at a map.
Clearly, they weren’t much pressed for time because the three most expeditious routes from Houston to NYC was NOT the route they took.
The most expeditious route from Houston to NYC goes near New Orleans (and who wouldn’t stop there if it was along the way), but certainly notttt Jacksonville or Virginia Beach.
Below is a map of what their route probably looked like. It’s about 28 hours drive time. Sure that’s only four or so hours more than the other suggested route, but it doesn’t count the time they spent gallivanting.
They essentially chose a coastal route. Or as much of one that’s realistic since more easterly state highways and byways along the coast would have taken waaaaayyy longer to navigate. And don’t forget, there was at least a mild sense of urgency and a loose schedule to keep.
So, huh…Why a coastal route?
Could it be………….
What’s so special about water in the mystical sense? Plenty, let me tell ya. For starters, it represents the flow of the collective mind, or the collective unconscious. Water is the reality of an ever-changing life-force: from condensing vapor forming a raindrop falling and becoming part of the earth or stream; to the rivers and onward to the sea; to be used, consumed and ultimately returned; to freeze or vaporize; it is ever changing. It represents purity, healing, cleansing, the emotional-intuitive, adaptability…and on and on and on in fascinating ways. I’ve read that the ocean’s salt is a symbol of stability — a thing that Nate certainly needs in his chaotic mind. The ocean is a calming white noise as waves crash on the shore and is a symbol of power, strength, hope, and truth — all the things Nate seeks.
So was this journey some random jaunt between points A and B?
Oh, I definitely don’t think so. Because it seems to me like Nate and Trent were pulled in a metaphysical sense to travel along the coastline (as much as the interstate system would allow). And rather than just some random adventure between two virtual strangers taking fun little side-trips, I think there was a pull to stop in these places for a larger reason than drunken fun in the sun, surf, and sand.
I want to know how much Santino knows and how much he looked into the metaphysical of these places. Were they part of his research, experience, conscious or sub-conscious decisions? Is this all weird-assed coincidence? Or, am I totally off my rocker?
I’m fine with being off my rocker, this was a fun and possibly senseless way to spend a rainy, slushy weekend and avoid other things on my to-do list.
Okay, a few Book Reviewish type words so I have something resembling sanity to crosspost on Goodreads and Amazon:
It’s not a secret that I’m a big fan of Santino Hassell’s work. Insight was a tremendous read, so far, it’s the first in my Best Of for this year. While a romance, it’s also paranormal, a murder mystery, and a road-trip adventure. The characterizations are spot on with the depth and nuance that I love about Santino’s stories, the kind that reach in and feel familiar in spectacular ways. The paranormal aspects were incredible — and this from a girl who shies away from that genre like it might electrocute me. The mystery thread surprised me, maybe blurb neglect, which I’m often guilty of, but the fact that he freaking NAILED it by keeping me guessing until the bitter end was phenomenal.
Blah, blah, blah….AMAZING book, buy it, read it.
About the Author:
Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.
Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.
I’m feeling the need to spread the love. If you managed to make your way through my rambling, non-sensical Non-Review Review and are still here: Leave me a comment and I’ll pick one winner who will be gifted AN E-BOOK COPY OF INSIGHT via Amazon.
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