Book Review: TRUTHFUL MOMENTS, by Tom Reed

PTSD fictionLast week I introduced a new monthly feature: The PTSD Recovery Tip of the Month. Today, I’m introducing another new feature: The Monthly Book Review.

We’re all always reading. Books are a great way to continue exploring aspects of PTSD symptoms, treatment and recovery. This monthly feature will cover all kinds of books, including both fiction and nonfiction.

I’m kicking off this feature with TRUTHFUL MOMENTS, by Tom Reed. As Tom described the book in his first email to me:

It is about PTSD. Part of the intent is to raise awareness of PTSD.  I know that the disorder can occur in children and noncombatants and this is mentioned in the foreword under an explanation of PTSD.  In the book, I use the common form of returning veterans: One witnesses a murder which triggers flashbacks from his war experiences and scrambles his past with the present.  As he sorts his past from the present, he helps solve the murder.  A portion of the proceeds of the book is donated to the National Center for PTSD.

The description of the book and Tom’s intention gives you enough of an overview to know the gist of the plot (which includes the hero plus a veteran friend also struggling to cope with PTSD, the hero’s ex-wife who’s still in love with him, and a not-so-nice commentary on the medical profession’s lack of personal attention and detail). So instead of writing about the story itself and how the hero solves the murder and redeems himself I want to tell you about the subtle aspects of PTSD that the author captures.

1 – Mike, our hero, spends the majority of his time wandering the town he lives in spray painting ‘TRUTH’ on telephone poles. He finds the search for truth a ‘dull ache’. He seeks to see what’s real and to raise the awareness of others to see the same. Trauma often changes perceptions. Mike’s the search for truth – about his past, and also about his present – reflects the search all trauma survivors face when trying to find the truth of who they are after tragedy.

2 – The flashbacks that play an enormous role in Mike’s story weave seamlessly in and out of the narrative so that you get a real sense of how simply memories move like vapors throughout the course of a survivor’s day.

3 – Mike compartmentalizes all emotions, just the way many of us have learned to do. He exists by putting thoughts, emotions, etc. in boxes in his mind, and then tightening the lids. I like this example as it shows how we all learn to cope by put things in places in our minds that contain that which we feel we cannot experience. Accurately in the story, love makes the lids slip off. The relationship between Mike and his ex-wife, Diana, shows how the right kind of support can bring change and recovery can be made.

4 – Diana, too, becomes a symbol of how helpful it can be to have even just one person willing to gently help put the pieces of the puzzle together. Mike blames himself for things that happened in Vietnam; the shadow of it all hangs over him throughout every day. Diana sweeps back into his life and helps him organize his view of the past so that he has more clarity and control over his thoughts.

5 – Mike makes the point that in recovery you can’t ‘spoon up’ too much at once: not too many details, thoughts or fragments of the past. Too much and it becomes overwhelming. Instead, with the help of Diana he spoons up enough to be able to piece together not only his past, but his present, which becomes the crux of how the murder is solved.

6 – What I really love about the book is the example that when you take an action in PTSD recovery, you can bring yourself to peace. Does Mike still have work to do after helping solve the murder? Of course, but his increased confidence in himself, his openness to love and his courage all coalesce in a new place for him to begin rebuilding his life and continuing on a recovery path.

While TRUTHFUL MOMENTS is a solid story with good development and a sensitive rendition of PTSD that any survivor would recognize, it is also very readable for anyone with PTSD. The plot is crisp and unfolds with a clarity that pulls the reader forward without having to struggle to maintain focus. I recommend it for anyone wanting to lose yourself in a story, or learn about what it’s like to function with PTSD. And also, this: the story reveals a process of recovery based on the self-empowered element of the hero’s final act of looking back and seeing the past while learning to live, act and be present in the moment – a lesson every survivor needs to learn.

 
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