Mary Curran-Hackett, 35, will return to Danbury to speak about her book, "Proof of Heaven." Faced throughout her life with close calls with death, the book seemed to have come about as a catharsis for her own past.
Curran-Hackett, the daughter of City Counsel member Phillip Curran, said the book poured out of her in only two weeks.
"I feel in some ways it manifested itself; it kind of kept me up at night," she said. "It seems so inexplicable. I felt the story was bound to come to earth one way or another. Whenever you write, time disappears. I felt like I was not present when I was writing, I kept wondering what was going to happen next."
While the book is fiction, many of her own experiences are mirrored in the book, she said. Curran-Hackett will read excerpts and sign her book from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Danbury Museum.
As a young child, Curran-Hackett experienced the loss of two dear family friends through a firefighting accident. Her father's grief magnified the danger her father faced in his own firefighting work, which effected Curran-Hackett deeply.
Throughout her life, Hackett also brushed up against her own death. Suffering with a condition that frequently caused her heart to stop suddenly, Curran-Hackett blacked out while driving with her young child strapped in the car seat. In another incident, her child ceased to breathe for several moments, and was catatonic for hours afterward.
As much as Curran-Hackett has faced death, she has never had the kind of visionary experience that would solidify her faith. Coming from a deeply religious upbringing, her encounters with death have resulted in a search for understanding.
One of Curran-Hackett's best friends from Danbury High School, Laurye Peddie, 35, now living in Massachusetts, described Curran-Hackett as a devout Catholic.
"Mary has always been a very religious person," said Peddie. "How many college students make an effort to attend church every week? But Mary did."
Much of the book is about a young boy's search for proof of heaven. It was born the night her child lost consciousness.
"I was feeding my one year old son when he stopped breathing," said Curran-Hackett. "He spontaneously opened his eyes, but he was basically catatonic for a few hours after that. I stayed up that night; I couldn't sleep. I started writing about it into my journal and turned it into a short story. Two years ago, I was cleaning out my files and I couldn't believe I had written this. I sat down and in two weeks, I finished writing the book."
"I still question everything and have my doubts," Curran-Hackett said. "Everyone's journey is unique, and in the book, each character is operating on their own experiences. There are characters who are seeking God, the doctor who bases his beliefs in science, and a child who doesn't believe heaven exists. In the end, they are all on their own personal journey, but all are faced with a child that needs to be cured."
The book does not take a spiritual or religious position, which is consistent with Curran-Hackett's beliefs as well. Curran-Hackett attended Catholic University of America with Susan Surette, 35, Ridgefield, who said, "I've known Mary since she was 18. She's really smart; she has different ideas. Mary took a philosophy class in college and she did really well, well beyond what the ordinary 18 year old would do. In college you have conversations where even politics turns into religion."
These kinds of conversations appear to have continued to play a part in Curran-Hackett's life.
In a telephone interview from her home in Cinccinnati, Curran-Hackett said, "People who have had religious experiences feel very strongly about them, but I understand that people who don't believe [in God] have reasons for the way they feel, as well."
"I think there is room for doubt," she said. "There is space for the unknowable and space for the rational. The world gives us clues. We weren't given one tree to look at, we were given many different kinds. Why wouldn't we be given many ways to experience the world, the universe? People can love mountains or rivers or trees, but they are still on a journey of beauty."
"When you think about it, love is the driving force of all religious. Sometimes reason fails us, sometimes faith fails us, but love never does," Curran-Hackett said. "I am more interested in knowing the questions than the answers, but I really do hope there is a place where I get to see the people I love and miss."
The book was released on November 1, and according to Curran-Hackett, it is making it's way up the best seller lists.
That doesn't surprise her father, retired Danbury firefighter Phil Curran, who said, "Mary always had a dream to publish, so nothing would surprise me. I think everyone questions their faith at one point or another."