The battlefield warrior experiences many horrors, but author Doug Lucas reminds his readers some of war’s horrors weigh heaviest on those we rarely even think of as warriors. In particular women, who nursed the soldiers of the Vietnam War, might pay a huge emotional toll without knowing what is going wrong with their lives. “Strong, brave, deserving of all our respect and admiration,” nurses such as the fictional Brandy deserve to have their tales told. Driving home from Bethesda, missing her exit, tired and haunted by the loss of “her boys,” who always seem to die on a Friday evening or Saturday morning… Brandy’s voice is so entirely believable you can hear her talking from the page even as the weight of trauma bends her down. Meanwhile, in Tokyo, a hugely expensive phone call is followed by drinks, and a dying boy doesn’t know how hard everyone’s fighting for his life. The dialog’s spot-on. The details all feel right. And Brandy’s internal musings hold a wealth of honest pain, as do those of Reggie far away. I used to love watching MASH, and the same sense of trauma, with total breakdown held just at bay, pervades this novella. By turns confusing, haunting, enthralling, sad and wonderful, it’s filled with timely and genuine details, deep knowledge of the hurts of war, and nice observation of human nature, all driven by the internal and external dialogs of real characters. In a powerful turning point, a wise man talks to Brandy. “I took those memories and the crushing pain they carried and stuffed them in a box deep inside my mind,” he says, but it’s time for Brandy to stop denying she has a problem, and relearn how to sleep. A well-told tale of the past, filled with relevance for the present, this might be my favorite yet from Doug Lucas.
Disclosure: I think I received this as a gift, but I can’t remember. Anyway, this is my honest review.
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