A major in the Canadian military battles PTSD, torn between the influences of a psychologist he feels fails to understand him and an angry friend and ex-soldier.
In this debut novel, Maj. Hugh Dégaré wakes up one night to his wife, Elizabeth, in tears, recoiling from him in fear after his nightmares caused him to strike her in his sleep. These dreams have haunted him for two years, since his third tour of Afghanistan ended. This, along with his anger, depression, and sexual dysfunction, forces Hugh to admit he has PTSD. But he still serves in the military, dealing with a boring desk job at Canada’s National Defense Headquarters, and fears the stigma of mental illness that will be attached to him if his condition is discovered. He begrudgingly begins seeing Dr. John Taylor, but the therapy is challenging, and Hugh feels that the physician cannot appreciate what it is like to be a soldier. For further help, he reconnects with his old army buddy Daryl Robertson, but Daryl has grown bitter and cruel after losing both legs in combat. He now spends his days railing against the government for the poor care it provides veterans, suggesting the public needs a drastic—perhaps violent—wake-up call. Luft’s book is an honest and nonjudgmental account of a soldier’s journey after returning home from war. Hugh’s daily battles are compounded by the fact that life goes on, from his wife’s tragic pregnancy and the funeral of a friend to his father-in-law’s efforts to undermine him. Each stressor only pushes Hugh further away from being OK again. Therapy is approached in realistic terms, acknowledging that treatment will often open old wounds never properly healed. It forces Hugh to recount and confront his time and actions in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Hugh’s and Daryl’s frustrations with the replacement of the regimented aspects of the service with the bureaucracies of civilian life are understandable, though not excusable, reasons for their actions, from Daryl’s abuse toward his wife to Hugh’s growing comfort in withdrawing from Elizabeth. Hugh starts to spend more time alone with his anger and Daryl’s firearms, considering turning them on himself or even others. To heal, Hugh must figure out how it all went bad, and the reader discovers each heartbreaking detail along with him.
Crushingly intimate, a remarkably accurate and poignant dissection of PTSD.