Heaven Bound in Anaheim is a novel for older middle grade to younger young adult readers. The book is in four parts, each centered on a very unusual premise and threaded together by a character cast of famous authors of children’s stories. The primary authors are Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, Jules Verne, Kenneth Grahame, and J. M. Barrie. The setting is Disneyland as a purgatory for authors whose stories inspired Disneyland’s rides. Their purgatory is tailored to the history of their lives, a place where all their anger, hatreds, and other issues must be faced and dealt with before ascending to Heaven. Even so, the novel is not dark, but most often lighthearted in tone and often humorous.
In the first part of the novel ten-year-old Lute visits the otherworldly realm finding it weird but friendly. In the second part sixteen year old Addie escapes her confinement to a wheelchair to live an adventure and a mystery with some of her favorite literary characters. In the third part of the novel, Lute and Addie, each now eighteen years old, venture into a purgatory shaped for their special fates and their future love. In the final part of the novel, love is again tested by the extreme circumstances.
As did Dante, the visitors discover insights and epiphanies about the authors and themselves. Throughout the novel there are historically accurate references to the lives of the famous writers prompting the reader to learn more about the authors.
In a Disneyland haunted by writers and their creations, three classic dark rides – Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan’s Flight – are reimagined (or reimagineered) by the authors, Kenneth Grahame, Lewis Carroll, and J. M. Barrie. It’s not a version of Disneyland that a Disney fan would knock himself out to get into, but in 1961 the well-read Lute manages to do just that while eating his first taco in the Casa de Fritos – thanks to his sisters’ hot sauce prank.
Although, the Twilight Zone like Disneyland is only haunted by amiable though wistful ghosts, and although there are no lines for the rides, Lute still wants to return home. The ghosts of the three authors are helpful in helping Lute return to the land of the flesh and blood. But first he must experience their dark rides and learn a lesson.
Kenneth Grahame prefers his ride to be based on a chapter, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, from The Wind in the Willows, one left out of the A. A. Milne play and the Disney cartoon. There, while rowing on the moonlit Thames, Lute experiences Grahame’s vision of the mythological god, Pan (in Lute’s opinion, neither scary nor holy); and he learns of Grahame’s greatest sorrow, a son called Mouse. After the ride, Lute simply feels sorry for the man.
Lewis Carroll, a devout Christian, after his death found his life and reputation vilely slandered by critics seeking sensationalism. He takes Lute through a looking glass and to Tulgey Wood where the author has imagineered the Jabberwock to hunt his twentieth century critics (amateur Freudians) reincarnated as mome raths and borogoves. In this looking glass world, Lute witnesses Carroll’s inability to let go of anger and resentment.
J. M. Barrie, joined by the other two authors, takes Lute on a descent to Neverland where his tribe of Native Americans have been replaced by the Celtic tribe, the Iceni, and Tiger Lilly by Queen Boudica. The long-term memory challenged Peter Pan is of little help, and the mermaids are murderous. The invisible to the naked eye Tinker Bell remains essential to the plot. Unfortunately, Mr. Barrie becomes a victim of his own story and the four find themselves in a spot of bother in their attempt to exit the ride. Lute, however, learns an important lesson.
Addie is a young teenager, handicapped by a condition confining her to a wheelchair. Her family takes her to Disneyland where one of the few rides she can access is the riverboat, Mark Twain. While on the ride she slips into the purgatory of Samuel Clemens and Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll). There she enjoys walking, running and especially dancing. She makes friends with the characters from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. With her new friends, she helps solve a mystery that comes aboard in the form of the author, Caroline Lee Hentz, a pre-civil war author of pro-slavery books, anti-Tom books. The anti-Tom refers to books written in reaction to the anti-slavery book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, a good friend and neighbor of Samuel Clemens. Captain Sam finds it difficult to let go of hatred and resentment, but Addie helps him through it as well as solving the mystery.
Part Three, Addie and Lute Loved by God, 11,500 words
Lute returns from Part One and Addie from Part Two to ride the Mark Twain Riverboat in a purgatory cruise to the Civil War’s siege of Vicksburg. During adventures on both sides of the lines they fall in love while nursing the wounded soldiers and civilians of both sides. As hellish as the war is in this purgatory, return to our world means Addie returns to her wheelchair and Lute returns to face the Vietnam era draft.
Toyogi Peter Tomita is a Nisei born in Torrance, California in 1934. In the December of 1941 his mother takes him to Japan to visit his grandfather. They are stranded there during the war. Afterwards, back home in southern California, he just wants to blend in and write pacifistic science-fiction. Unfortunately, he is killed by a shark right after his first book is published and he winds up in the purgatory of Jules Verne. To help him in his epiphany is his platonic love interest who visits every year on his birthday. But in helping him she burdens her own quotidian life and it’s up to Toyoji to selflessly guide and advise her to a life changing resolution.
A post from February of 2018 reveals some personal history of J.M. and Toyoji.