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Midvale Journal

New novel takes a nostalgic look at growing up in Midvale

Oct 01, 2022 07:38PM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]

Many people who grew up in Midvale feel nostalgia for how things used to be. Mike Padjen took those fond memories and wove them into a novel.

“Liminal” is a supernatural thriller for young adults that takes place in several settings across time and space, but much of the book takes place in Midvale, Utah during 1972 and 2022.

A main character named Micky has some similarities to the author. Both grew up in Midvale, now live in North Carolina, and later in life were diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia called multiple myeloma.

“Micky is a tough kid and a tough older guy. But he has his pains,” Padjen said. “People see you and you look healthy. They don’t know what’s going on underneath.”

The title of the book comes from a word that means being at a boundary.

“I’ve been listening to more spiritual podcasts,” Padjen said. “A liminal space is a threshold for spiritual beliefs. That’s a neat idea, that people are constantly crossing thresholds. That’s the idea of ‘Liminal,’ a supernatural story around the heart of friendship.”

The other main character in the book, 14-year-old Callie, is loosely based on Padjen’s own granddaughter. Once it is discovered that Callie and Micky can both enter a sinister dreamworld, they team up with Micky’s childhood friends to solve a decades-old mystery.

“I always wanted to write a story about friendships,” Padjen said. “But whenever I tried to write that story, it always ended up really sad. I kept putting it away.”

“Liminal” does put its characters in peril, but ends on a hopeful note.

“I started researching different mythological creatures connected to people’s beliefs,” Padjen said. “Beliefs can cause real things to happen if you try hard enough. I put a lot of things I’ve been thinking about over the past five years into this book.”

“Liminal” is also a story of nostalgia.

“Downtown Midvale was, at best, quaint,” reads a passage early on in the book. “There were always rumors it would be turned into a historic, upscale shopping and dining destination. The rumors always ended up being misleading, with the improvements mainly including duct tape, wire, and an article in The Midvale Sentinel touting bigger changes to come. Micky didn't care about those changes today either. It was baseball season.”

Padjen wrote the 1970’s Midvale scenes entirely from memory.

“I can still feel myself riding down the street,” he said. “I worked at Bern’s Foods for three years as a bag boy, delivering food to the houses in the avenues.”

The Micky character returns to Midvale decades later, and those scenes are inspired by Padjen’s own visit to his hometown in 2021. He was appalled to see that the land where his beloved baseball diamond had been is now buildings and a parking lot.

“I can’t believe it. My fondest childhood memories are buried under government buildings,” said the Micky character in “Liminal.” “I can’t think of a worse way of dashing those memories. I guess the next thing you're going to tell me is the Vincent Drugs sign is no longer there."

The sign is still there, the novel notes, though in disrepair and partially hidden by tree branches.

“I wasn’t real thrilled with all the apartments on Center Street, but they’re not bad,” Padjen said. “I thought they did a really good job with the park where they took the elementary school down. People on Facebook are always complaining, but there’s some good spots. Some improvements.”

Another character in the book is based on Padjen’s friend, Ron Cisneros. The two now live in different parts of the country, but remotely wrote a novel together in 2020. Cisneros has since written a children’s book, and the two are currently plotting a sequel to that first book together.

“Liminal” is available in softcover and ebook on Padjen also has plans to publish an audiobook version.

He got the idea to do an audio version when several of his friends told him they just don’t have time to sit down and read. Padjen was also impressed when he heard someone read a selection of his first book on her podcast.

“It takes on a whole other life when someone reads it out loud,” he said.