A novel that addresses the nature and effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
DeLevie’s intelligent, cumulatively powerful debut novel involves eight men in a room, all veterans of the Israeli armed forces. They’re all suffering from some permutation of PTSD, and each is coming to group therapy in a desperate attempt to regain control of his life. Overseeing and facilitating the meeting is 71-year-old Zev, a warm, caring psychologist. He takes his task very seriously, drawing out these men’s psychological poisons. The men are from a variety of fairly normal backgrounds, and their lives have all come to a shattering full-stop due to the horrors of war. As they begin to tell their stories, it becomes clear that although the traumas are different for each of them (“For me, it’s not the sight of blood or hearing the screams of the wounded; for me it’s the helicopters and the booms of artillery”), the chilling, alarming effects are very similar. They can’t bring themselves to care about or participate in the world, they sleep too much and they lash out at people who are trying to help. As with most cause-oriented novels (such as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle), this book’s fictional elements are fairly thin. As the author states in his introduction, his characters are amalgams of many real soldiers he’s interviewed over the years. As a result, the book’s plentiful exposition is much more informative than dramatic. However, Zev, clearly a stand-in for the author, is a patient listener and a persistent prodder; he knows that “emotional injuries are every bit as valid as physical injuries,” and he’s keenly aware of how deep the roots of such injuries can go (“One guy tells a story about somebody’s grandfather who fought in Sinai more than 50 years ago and is still struggling with the symptoms”).
An often engaging portrait of damage and healing that will be invaluable to sufferers of PTSD and those who love them.