A Change of Heart by Barbara Longley (Perfect, Indiana #3)
Rating: * * * *
Cory, battling PTSD, broke, unable to access veterans benefits, living in a trailer home with her mother, somewhat reluctantly accepts the push to start over with a new job in a new town, surrounded by other veterans dealing with PTSD. Although she learns to trust all those she works with, her strongest bond is with Ted, the only non-veteran in the bunch, a man struggling with his own identity issues, being seen as a kid and feeling like an outsider in the business he dreamed up and co-founded.
For every bit of progress Cory makes, she also experiences horrifying nightmares. Although she recognizes the progress, she also notes that “one notch above miserable can feel like relief.” I recently saw an episode of Star Trek: DS9 that sums up what Cory finally understands: “Running may help for a little while, but sooner or later the pain catches up with you, and the only way to get rid of it is to stand your ground and face it.” And so Cory faces it.
This book brims with hope. And pain, yes, but always the hope that a better, fuller life is possible and that the characters can achieve that by facing down their pain. Periods of hopelessness do not equal giving up. And that is why I will read this book again and again.
I received an advance reader copy through NetGalley.
The Desert Here and The Desert Far Away by Marcus Sakey
(alternately titled The Desert here and the Desert There)
A short story in the collection Thriller 2: Stories You Just Can’t Put Down, edited by Clive Cussler
Rating: * * * * *
When his military buddy Cooper calls on him for help, Nick doesn’t hesitate. Now stateside, the bond that was forged in Iraq still holds strong. Nick learns that Cooper’s troubles are far larger than he implied, and more dangerous, causing Nick to have flashbacks to their time in Iraq. The story explores war through its toll on soldiers and through the bonds they form. Perhaps because the story is short, its punch is concentrated. If you like this story, you might also like the 2007 movie In the Valley of Elah.