A family struggles to hold itself together in the wake of war.
Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, a decorated veteran, have returned to their small upstate New York hometown after years of unschooling and long-haul trucking. Ostensibly, they’re back so Hayley can have a typical senior year of high school, but it’s clear that Andy’s untreated PTSD has made it impossible for him to make a living as a trucker. Both Kincains are bright, sarcastic loners plagued by agonizing memories that won’t quite stay repressed, despite their best efforts, and that punctuate the narrative in counterpoint: Andy’s experiences during his four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan appear fully formed, while Hayley’s childhood recollections are more fragmented and less reliable than they at first seem. As Andy’s mental and physical health deteriorate, Hayley is forced deeper into the role of caretaker. It’s a part she’s been playing so well for so long she doesn’t even realize how much she resents the unfairness of it all until her sweet, bantering boyfriend, Finn, points it out. Anderson sensitively addresses the many problems—physical recovery, grief and survivor’s guilt, chemical dependency, panic attacks and suicidal tendencies—that veterans can face when trying to reintegrate. This is less a bravura performance than a solid one, but Hayley’s strong, wryly vulnerable voice carries the narrative toward a resolutely imperfect, hopeful conclusion.
A characteristically honest and deeply felt exploration of the lingering scars of war. (Fiction. 14 & up)