A novel presents a tale of tormented and damaged characters against the backdrop of the turbulent 1960s.
The story revolves—no, churns—around Noël Trudeau, whom readers first meet as a youngster while her family is fleeing north from Hyssop, Louisiana, in the dead of night. Something truly horrible has happened, something that will remain secret for some 200 pages (this is a book of secrets). Then readers find Noël in Langston, Indiana, where she and her toddler son, Adam, have escaped a marriage to a brutal abuser and where young Ricky Ziemny is hopelessly in love with her. She begins timorously to allow the possibility of romance, but it is Ricky’s brother, Leon, whom she falls in love with and marries. The union is tempestuous: The Trudeaus are leery of Leon, the Ziemnys of Noël. Meanwhile—these are just the high (or low) points—her oldest brother is killed in Vietnam and her younger brother, Adam, who dreamed of becoming a surgeon, returns minus an arm. There are suicides, a mental breakdown, and screaming confrontations (especially as the long-held secrets come spilling out). An apothegm from Pascal sets the tone: “When one does not love too much, one does not love enough.” This sets the stage for Noël’s final musing on two kinds of love: “The love you could live with, and the love you couldn’t live without.” Given these truths, the characters are whipsawed big-time. Dzikowski (Searching for Lincoln’s Ghost, 2011) is a passionate writer and her background in counseling has likely contributed much to her prose and outlook. But one needn’t be a Pollyanna to sometimes shout: “Enough already! Enough trauma, enough heartbreak!” On the other hand, one cannot deny the real power of the book. Readers will be drawn into caring deeply about these terribly tortured characters and bracing for the next inevitable tragic turn. This is the first volume of a trilogy; may the sequels bring a measure of relief.
A gripping family story for those strong enough for the emotional journey.