A war veteran returns home wracked with guilt.
Jacob Miranda was a sergeant in the Army and served two tours in Iraq before an improvised explosive device killed five of his men. Upon his return to Tucson, he struggles with civilian life. Tormented by nightmares, panic attacks, and migraines, he’s also lost in a dead-end job as a security guard. Unlike his mother, Jacob finds no solace in religion. His guilt becomes a psychic weight that grows even heavier when another soldier once under his command overdoses on drugs after he’s discharged. Jacob’s grief is movingly expressed by debut author Mabante: “But most of all, I wished that I could forget the faces—the ones that haunted my dreams nearly every night as they screamed out in soundless torment. They were a constant reminder that I’d let them all down—a silent indictment of my failure to protect my men.” Jacob drinks to assuage his troubles and contemplates re-enlisting or, in even darker moments, taking his own life. His family, especially his older sister, Monica, tries to rescue him from his despair, but he’s all but hopeless until his best friend from childhood, the girl he’s always been in love with, Maddie, lends her undying support. This is a familiar tale—so familiar it now constitutes a literary genre—but Mabante also adds a kind of novel within a novel: the story of Jacob and Maddie’s friendship beginning in childhood. Also, Jacob wrestles with the disclosure of a dark family secret, kept from him the whole of his life, a key to his character vividly drawn by Mabante. The writing tends toward stylistic realism, but it’s also by turns poetically charged, even poignant. Furthermore, Mabante’s depiction of the psychological challenges (the sting and ache of trauma, the jarring reabsorption into quotidian life) that combat veterans face unfolds in raw, honest terms.
A heart-rending tale both brutal and beautiful.