Wednesday, June 05, 2013

No Man's Land by S. T. Underdahl

This probably was written as bibliotherapy.  The author is a neuropsychologist who treats folks with Post Traumatic Stress disorder.  The best audience for this title might be friends of teens who are dealing with the issue.  It could help in understanding what that friend is going through.

Dov is the younger brother of a recent  high school graduate who was a success in school and appears to be on his way to being a success in adult life.  He had joined the army reserves, he was getting married and going off to college.  Then, unexpectedly his unit was deployed to Afghanistan.  His family is tense with worry about him. Reader's can feel the tension.  When an improvised explosive device explodes and kills all but Brian, the family is relieved that Brian is coming home.  Only it isn't the same Brian who left.  But, they want him to be.  They celebrate, make his favorite meals, take him to his favorite places, even hunting.  The hunting trip seems counter intuitive.  I just cannot believe that the parents are so clueless to think that someone just returning from violence would want the hunting trip.  Its on this trip that it first very obvious that something is amiss.  Brian just doesn't behave normally.  And Dov discovers a pistol in Brian's duffel.  Dov has seen other questionable behavior such as heavy drinking and patrolling during the night and shared with a friend who suspects PTSD.  Its when Dov is driving the still physically recovering Brian to get yet more alcohol and arguing with Brian that things come to a head.  Dov hits the car of a friend who's father wears a turban and Brian draws his pistol to secure the area as if back in Afghanistan.  I think the disorder is well explained.  I could feel the family's wish that everything was ok and looking the other way until they could no longer do so.  I enjoyed the part about the poetry discovered and how clueless Dov was about Miranda.  Scarlett seemed like a vehicle to make the story work rather than a fully realized character.  Both Scarlett and Dov turn up working jobs all of a sudden.  While not unrealistic, those jobs were mentioned only once and were no way expected or woven into the story.  So they seemed like filler words.  That's what bothered me, but then I like character driven stories better than issue driven stories.  Overall its an ok story for teens wanting to know more about PTSD in a nonclinical way.  JDW6/5

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