Janyre Tromp’s debut adult novel is a multi-layered story that takes readers back to a time and place that don’t seem so far removed from today. Sam Mattas, a Higgins boat coxswain in the Pacific during World War II, is finally headed home to Hot Springs, Ark. But he brings more than surface wounds home to his wife, Annie, and daughter Rosie; he brings what was then called “shell shock” but we now know as PTSD.
Strange things are happening up in Sam’s Ouachita Mountains. His biggest fear is that he’s the cause, endangering his Annie and Rosie and his mother Dovie, through things he can’t remember doing. Annie has her own struggles as she tries to love Sam as he is, yet also carries the weight of her daddy’s appalling past behavior and her escape from his power. Together Sam and Annie battle hidden enemies such as PTSD, but also what seems to be real enemies and corruption threatening their home and lives.
Tromp does a fine job weaving history and fiction, bringing in elements of the area’s history as the top organized crime center of that time (Al Capone and other gangsters visited regularly) as well as treatments for PTSD such as EMDR. While Sam didn’t have a name for the practices that helped heal him, we do now, and Tromp integrates them beautifully into the story.
Those looking for more than just a charming tale will find it here. Readers will battle the past with Sam, look to the future with Annie, and love them both as they fight in the present for all they hold dear. (Kregel)