My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Let me start by asking a question. What are the costs of war for country and its people?
These include not only the money spent for the thousands of troops, battle weaponry, and bombs, but also the lives of the soldiers lost in defending the country’s ideals and independence. However, one cost that is routinely ignored is the impact the war has on soldiers returning from the line of duty, their memories forever tainted by the horrors experienced there.
This is the story of such a soldier, who after two stints is hounded by the terrible images and nightmares he experienced during the war. Having returned to his family, injured and broken, Aaron faces difficulties in facing his demons as well as his disability. His wife, Candace tries her best to help him gain a semblance of normality, but fails in her attempts. Finding the going tough, Aaron becomes overwhelmed and he takes his own life.
There are two distinct parts to the story. Being an army wife, Candace had been prepared to hear the bad news. But her husband’s suicide was never something contemplated or prepared for. Candace breaks down and is hounded by the images of her husband’s blood everywhere, has nightmares every night, where she relives the incident leading her to be scared all the time. But, she has to steel herself for her kids and over time she begins to accept it. This first part of the story is about her journey along the five stages of grief. Along the way she is helped by a number of concerned friends. Particularly helpful is Everett, a cousin of one of her friends. He does not give up on her, even though she constantly pushes him away. This finally develops into a budding relationship and adds a romantic angle to an otherwise serious book.
Everett is a freelance journalist and has another motive to try to get close to Candace. He wants to publish her story about the struggles of having a disabled husband and getting him the help needed to make him better from a government which does not care. This brings us to the second part of the book. This depicts a government who has forgotten its promises to the very people who protect the country, and are willing to sacrifice their lives doing it. Candace becomes the poster-child for these issues because of Everett’s article and is asked to testify in front of Congress. The issues here have been clearly laid out (without it turning into some kind of literary article) and the politics involved is brought to the fore.
There is a paranormal undercurrent to the whole story, from Candace seeing ghosts in her dreams at Arlington cemetery where soldiers are buried, to her dead husband acting as her guiding light.
I really liked the writing style of the author, who was careful not to overdo any particular theme. She admirably refrained from turning the novel into a psychological drain or a political rant. The romance was extremely well woven into the story and does not interfere with the message coming across clearly. Het experience in the US Air Force helped her in writing a well-researched novel.
This is a novel where the ending is tied up in a bow and everyone walks way ‘somewhat’ happy. I did find the paranormal parts to be a bit unbelievable. Hence I would not recommend this to people who are not willing to accept the paranormal, as it is constantly present during the entire story.
Note: I have posted an interview with the author here.