In the vein of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Step Back Joanna is literary fiction about a 25-year-old aspiring social worker struggling to build a life in Chicago despite the obsessive-compulsive tendencies she was punished for as a child. Amid a crumbling relationship and with her job at risk, Joanna learns history is repeating when her much-younger brother appears at her apartment door. Helping Nathan means helping herself as they embark on a project to cover mirrors throughout the city in order to temper their urges to self-harm and begin to heal.
Themes include family estrangement, abusive patterns on repeat and coming to terms with the shared history of siblings while facing mental illness as adults. Joanna finds her carefully constructed life in Chicago tested when Nathan arrives. Though her brother’s OCD is more severe, he blends into the world far better than quirky Joanna with her narrow parameters and rigid rules. Together they must navigate old family patterns of denial and support each other in the face of their individual compulsions.
Read this adapted short story, published in Great Lakes Review!