Sticky Karma: Meditations on Meaning and Madness in the Time of COVID
by Lee Shainen
“What my story reminds me is being ready for anything is a powerful place to be, and that a path that brings us to confront what we fear is also the way to what we love.”
Praise for Sticky Karma:
"Sticky Karma is a wild yet nuanced ride through our complex dance with COVID and into the mind of one very interesting man. Uncomfortable as it is to be taken back through the challenges of the virus, the re-grieving induced becomes healing as a result of Shainen’s deep understanding and gentle ways. As a bonus, we are treated to a collection of intimate, funny, and flat out fascinating stories about the trajectory of the author's life. Sticky Karma is a literary experience that will take you back, open you up, and make you smile. It's like sitting next to an old pal in a pub and ordering another round because you don’t want the night nor the stories to end."
--Earl Hipp, 2022 NYC Big Book Award-winning author of Fighting Invisible Tigers
“Lee Shainen peppers his COVID years storytelling with hard-earned wisdom that comes from an uncommon life and his terrifying near-death experience and I could not put it down. Woven into the mesmerizing narrative are Lee’s unique reflections that read like accessible zen koans. If you are thirsting for musings and observations that will resonate with you, that will leave you reassured that you aren’t losing your mind in this age of cascading catastrophes, Lee’s delicious writing will sate your soul. Sticky Karma is on my nightstand like a lighthouse on a rock, a beacon that I reach for when the waters of turmoil rise and I am in need of provocative comfort, profound humor, and an excellent read by a gifted author.”
--David Fitzsimmons, nationally syndicated cartoonist
"No doubt, COVID-19 changed the way many people think and act. For Lee Shainen, add a near death event during the pandemic. Together, they changed his interest from writing what he once called 'fast food fiction' to looking inward. The result is Sticky Karma, a gentle ramble into streams of both past and present consciousness. Along the way, doors shut on his true identity (as happens for many of us) are opened. With Lee, we glimpse how sticky karma follows and shapes a life. Shainen's self-deprecating humor, mixed with his new age spiritualism and midwestern roots, provide both chuckles and insight. As he writes, '. . . rather than hoping to convince anyone of anything, I will keep crafting these written offerings, like love letters, to friends and strangers, far and near.’"
--John Hudak, publisher, Tucson Lifestyle
"I was among the legion of those who were entertained and uplifted by Lee Shainen’s social media musings throughout the COVID crisis. Sticky Karma, the book that sprang from those posts, whips those musings into a disciplined, literate, funny, and heartwarming account of everyday life in the plague years. Along the way, we learn much of Shainen’s life story. We watch him confront his own mortality and deal with love, loss, and the insanity of contemporary life. Unnecessary COVID deaths, mass murders, homelessness, injustice, and the more trivial depravations of lockdown create a bleak background for Shainen’s tales, but he doesn’t respond with rage. He notes that Japanese roller-coaster operators asked patrons during COVID to “Please scream inside your heart.” He takes that advice. He screams softly, with heart and wit and poetry."
--Tom Beal, former editor and columnist, Arizona Daily Star
"Weaving together current events, dazzling observations, and wondrous insights with his often tumultuous life events, Lee Shainen is the deeply affecting narrator of his own life story. This expansive portrait of one life reveals essential truths about the nature of life. In turns both witty and searing, Shainen invites us to explore his life’s learning journey and—in ways that will astonish and move the reader—inspires us to do the same with our own."
--Lois Bridges, Executive Director, Bring Me a Book Foundation
"Profound and beautiful, Sticky Karma is a book worth savoring slowly. Written as a series of anecdotes and reflections interspersed with poetry, Shainen offers insights into creativity, aging, human interconnectedness, teaching, solitude, and the art of loving another human (and two cats). When reading Shainen’s book, the pleasure lies in the witty, wise, and wonder-filled journey. As he reaches for meaning, we gain understanding into our own search, and discover the inconceivable gift we all share: the gift of a life lived interconnected with others who help us see what we cannot see on our own."
--Rodney Vance, international award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter
"Sticky Karma reminds us of the anxiety and uncertainty experienced with COVID’s arrival. Like a jazz musician, in each chapter, Lee presents progressions on remembrance, introspection, and wonder. Always returning to themes of our evolving COVID fears, he takes us through riffs of reflection, inspiring readers to do the same, but without having to almost die!"
--Elliot Glicksman, comedian and founder of the Tucson Jazz Festival
"Sticky Karma is an introspective look at life disguised as one man’s discussion with himself about the COVID pandemic. Using the pandemic as a jumping-off point, Lee leads us through the most impactful moments of his life, and in doing so, puts words to the thoughts, feelings and emotions the rest of us usually find too difficult to face. The breadth of Lee’s experiences are truly dazzling, and hearing his unique take on these events, as filtered through his personality and inimitable perspective, take us on a humorous and touching ride not to be missed, all within a thinly veiled love letter to his wife. A must-read."
--Jeffrey Jay Levin, author of Watching, Volume 1: The Garden Museum Heist
Just before Lee’s wife joins him in retirement, their plans for their golden years are dashed. COVID-19 has thrust the world into lockdown, and nothing will ever be the same.
A near-death experience lands him in the hospital at the peak of the pandemic. Then, he must grapple with his new limitations amidst a world seemingly coming unhinged. As COVID grinds on, month after month, the truth of his identity bubbles irrepressibly to the surface, forcing him to confront his demons and finally share what he has long buried.
Witty and insightful, Shainen shares a series of anecdotes from the COVID era and meditations on what it all might mean. In a double-helix style of prose and poetry, this avant-garde memoir dives deep into the malaise and madness, ultimately reminding us that there is always much to be grateful for if only we lean in and take a closer look.