Monday, May 16, 2011

YA Novel about PSTD and its affects on the family

Review: The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt

The realities of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t often hit home.  Most of us go about our day-to-day activities without thinking about the deployed men and women who risk their lives and sacrifice their time with their loved ones for the sake of our country.  We see images splashed across the television.  Occasionally, we read news updates on the internet, but it all can seem distant – as if it’s happening in another life, so far away from our own.  Besides, if we constantly thought about and felt the tragedy, danger, and terror that exist during these deployments, these wars, how could we cope with our everyday lives?

But the real question is, how can the soldiers who live it cope?  In this novel, Dana Reinhardt tackles the emotional devastation war can cause a returning soldier and the toll it can take on his friends and loved ones.

Levi is angry when his older brother, Boaz – the hometown star athlete and scholar – gives up multiple college scholarships to enlist in the military.  He feels abandoned and witnesses, in the course of his brother’s three-year commitment, the unraveling of his family.  His parents are constantly worried.  They seem to pay him little attention, because all of their energy and emotion is sucked up by their all-consuming anxiety for Boaz. 

At first, Boaz keeps in contact with his family through letters, but slowly they stop coming.  When on leave, he comes home seeming distant, until he stops using his leave time to come home at all, breaking his family’s heart and fueling Levi’s resentment.

When Boaz finally arrives home for good, he is not the same person.  According to Levi, instead of leaving a boy and coming back a man, Boaz “left a man and came back a ghost.”  Boaz seems unable to bear the trivialities of day-to-day life and struggles to make conversation when once he was the life of the party. 

But Levi really becomes worried when he discovers Boaz has been preparing a secret trip to Washington D.C.  Terrified of what Boaz has planned, Levi follows Boaz on a journey that becomes an awakening for both brothers, and ultimately, the entire family.

Reinhardt tells a touching story of true heroism and the unbreakable bond of brotherhood.  Levi is awkward, shy, innocent, and yet brave in an understated way.  It is difficult for an author to tell the story from a point of view of the opposite sex, but Reinhardt handled it well.  As I’m not a boy, I can’t say exactly how well, but Levi seemed believable, if a bit naïve at times.

Boaz’s struggle to face his demons is heart-wrenching, but it emphasizes the true inner battle soldiers face, particularly with post-traumatic stress disorder.  It is a moving tale that is an all-too-real issue in this country. 

As a military wife, the book hit home.  When my husband was deployed, there was always a part of me that worried he would return a stranger.  I’ve been very lucky – mostly due to the fact that he is a pilot and does not witness the up-close horrors of battle, but I know there are things he has done or seen that I will never hear about. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder is not uncommon among our returning heroes.  And unfortunately, it too often goes unseen or untreated. This is a novel that needed to be written and my belief is that it will provide insight and offer hope to soldiers and their families who struggle with this disorder, particularly those younger brothers or sisters who may not understand the change in their sibling.

A recommended read! 

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