Friday, October 6, 2017

PTSD: A Family Affair in Falling Into Place

Some books rattle around in your head for years. The idea for Falling Into Place grabbed me more than a decade ago, and I wrote perhaps 10,000 words. It is the story of Everett, a father of four who prefers his gardens to a lot of people contact. In the 1970s, he's a stay-at-home dad before it was a choice.

And he has a secret.

Since readers see the world from Everett's point of view, they know he used to be an electrician, but can no longer work because of the 'qualms.' His wife, Sue Ellen teaches, and has been pretty good at not showing resentment. His four children don't understand his passive interactions with the world.

Readers have the vantage point of the 21st century. Everett's memories of airplanes and poppies in North Africa during World War II and ensuing anxiety seem to be PTSD -- a term not used to describe World War II veterans who had difficulty coping with the world.

N. Africa, as Everett saw it.
I remember my father using the phrase shell shock to describe someone, I don't remember who. Such topics were not discussed. Nor are they in Everett's home.

Falling Into Place opens as Everett's world turns upside down. His wife's cancer battle doesn't look winnable, and his four twenty-something children aren't sure he'll be okay on his own in their town of Burlington, Iowa.

As an author who usually writes light mysteries, I found Everett to be his own mystery. I made the puzzle, so I had to figure it out.

Through the years, pieces of his life -- present and past -- came into focus. So did his wife, children, and a precocious granddaughter. But how to reveal his secret? If I had tried to force the discovery, something less than perfect would have emerged. Not to say the book is perfect now, but as his past surfaces, the influence of his World War II experiences becomes clearer. To him and his family.

The past and its impact can't be erased. But awareness can lead to understanding. I describe the story as one told with humor and grace. To me, that's Everett's world -- when he lets people in. I think you'll find him worth getting to know in Falling Into Place.
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