Crushingly intimate, a remarkably accurate and poignant dissection of PTSD.

THE BATTLE WITHIN

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.

Pub Date: June 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-942645-49-8

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Inkshares

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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