These Gentle Wounds, by Helene Dunbar
This book is a somewhat melodramatic tale of a young man crippled by extreme PTSD (much more serious than mine) whose life threatens to fall apart when his long-gone father decides he wants to come back into his life five years after he is nearly drowned by his suicidal mother and he finally finds a girl who shows interest in him even as his overprotective big brother becomes less of a help. In some ways, this is an easy novel to read. The chapters are fairly short, the prose is well-written, and the plot moves along towards a dramatic conclusion that has a well-earned payoff, and one that at least does not promise to be part of a large series of novels, which is a rarity in writing for young adult audiences these days, it would seem.
That said, there is much about this novel that is hard to read. It is clearly a “social issues” kind of novel, where a large part of the writing is devoted to showing Gordie’s tormented suffering from PTSD. Most of it involves shaking, panicky responses, and a lot of thrashing about and unpleasant flashbacks. In many ways, Gordie is a fairly helpless character, although he is kind and noble-hearted, and his extreme nervousness and anxiety when it comes to romance and his willingness to seek the safety and well-being of his young half-brother are areas I was able to greatly appreciate, and in some ways perhaps understand a little too well. The novel also portrays, rather painfully, some of the issues involved in family law involving custody and the lack of faith people from broken families have in receiving a fair shake regarding family law.
As this book was loaned to me by a friend of mine, I was also given to wonder exactly why this was the case. What does one gain by reading about people who are painfully alike in some ways (nervous tics and high anxiety and a tendency to have nightmares) and painfully dissimilar in other ways (the author of the book is much more kind about providing a love life to the main character than my Author has been for me)? In a sense, this sort of novel demonstrates that the fact that so many writings (fictional and nonfictional) are devoted to people a lot like me suggests that in some ways my life is not particularly uncommon, and that a lot of people seek to draw encouragement in difficult times and situations by thinking about the nobility of those who have suffered spectacularly and retain the courage to go on day by day despite their own difficulties. That is a sort of nobility that we can all appreciate.