Set along the Florida Space Coast in the summer of 1976, WHAT YOU CARRY finds the Thompson family at its breaking point as Lyle Thompson’s barely managed Schizophrenia expresses full bore. 

Determined to fulfill his destiny as the Son of God, Lyle dissociates from his family, leaving them to deal with their earthly struggles -- as well as his illness -- on their own. 

Steeped in pop culture and rooted in a time and place both familiar and exotic, WHAT YOU CARRY explores how our inheritance -- from blue eyes and strong teeth to denial and delusion -- shapes our lives. The Thompsons' insistence on survival, as individuals and as a family, is the heart of this taut and deeply human story. 

We follow Lyle, his wife Tammy and their three children -- Theresa, Robert and Kitty -- as they try to shed the family burden, each using the means at hand, be it holy salvation or Valium, music or sex, embracing the Florida wilds or getting in the nearest car and hitching a ride.


Told through overlapping perspectives, we watch the family fabric disintegrate. Everyone is affected. Like Florida itself, the internal and external landscapes are below sea level, treacherous, and bleached to the bone by an unrelenting sun. Carson McCullers, Denis Johnson and Dorothy Allison provide literary mulch. Not only the family, but society in general continues to struggle with compassionate, well-funded treatment for mental illness. WHAT YOU CARRY brings attention to the stigma and could open up discussion as well as make for an tumultuous book club meeting. 


Oakland Bookstores that sell WHAT YOU CARRY: 

East Bay Booksellers (formerly Diesel Books) 5433 College Ave, Oakland


Spectator Books 

4163 Piedmont Ave

Oakland CA 94611




LIVE footage from this event


Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 6:30pm

The Octopus Literary Salon, 2101 Webster Street, Oakland (3 blocks from 19th Street BART station)

An evening of readings by the author, Sandra Austin Mello, and LIVE MUSIC

featuring Maurice Tani, Paige Clem, Beth McKenna & Rick Kvoriak, Marissa Hereso & David Knupp, and Brian Mello.


Tammy walked into the dining room. “Are you still going on about your father firing you?”

Lyle said, “I didn’t deserve it. I shouldn’t have been sent to the hospital.”

“Well wish in one hand and poop in the other, Lyle. See what you get most of,” Tammy said.

“I don’t approve of your foul mouth, Tammy.”

“Well, I don’t approve of being on food stamps, Lyle.”

- Tammy Thompson



Newly reduced prices! $3.99 Kindle $12.25 Paperback from Amazon


Or buy directly from me via Paypal. sandraaustinmello@gmail.com Send me a note and I'll give the details. 




Just as quickly as it came, Glory folded and handed Lyle back to his flesh. He let go of the dining room table and stood taller, steadier, and full of strength. He legs were pillars of gold and he was all-powerful, the Son of God.
-Lyle Thompson

Theresa wrapped herself the best she could with the karate gee she used as a robe. The sun burned her skin through the open window from more than 90 million miles away.

“Please,” she said to the fiery orb. It sizzled above The Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly building and sparkled on the river.

“Please," she said to the baby inside her.

Only the pregnant urge to pee was strong enough to make her leave her room.  

- Theresa Thompson

"Get behind me Satan, in the name of Jesus Christ," Kitty said as she rolled out the piecrust. “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, get behind me.” Even when she didn’t say it out loud, the phrase churned in her mind like dirty clothes in a washing machine.
- Kitty Thompson


Growing up along the hardscrabble banks of the Indian River across from Cape Kennedy was a fantastical experience. I had to write about the place, the era and the effect it still has on me. My writing first emerged from a successful career as a songwriter. I create, record, perform and publish original work. Beyond several US tours, my work is featured in television and films, including the programs BIOGRAPHY (Kurt Cobain, Chevy Chase & Tom Cruise), STEVEN SEGAL: LAWMAN, and HBO REAL SEX.

Recordings of my band, The Bellyachers, can be heard on Pandora and iTunes. Future plans for this novel include in-store readings, and musical renditions of the songs in the novel performed in the Bay Area of California where I currently reside.

Contact: sandraaustinmello@gmail.com