Syrian-American, Lydia Fadoul, has spent a year waiting for her fiancé to return from war in Iraq, only to discover that he is broken by trauma and the devastating effects of PTSD. Just when he finally agrees to seek help, he takes his own life and leaves behind a story of murder, betrayal, and mystery.
In her second, contemporary fiction novel since Budapest, Tiffani Burnett-Velez weaves a fast-paced literary tale about the rumors we believe and the prejudices we create in order to protect our hearts from the truth.
The various cultures brought through in this book drew me in very quickly. In the first few pages I started feeling for Lydia. After getting more and more information my heart really broke for her. In the same way though, I felt for the various difficulties that each character was going through. Because some of these events in the book could so realistically be happening in the world, it’s a book that got me thinking which I really enjoyed. At times I felt the way it was written was a bit over done and it would push me back from the story somewhat. The internal thoughts and dialogue at times didn’t feel natural. What I was most impressed by with this novel is how many serious topics were touched upon – and quite well. While I wanted a more wrapped up ending, it left a lot of room for thought on some serious topics the book brought up. I would highly recommend this for a book club as I think it would spark many discussions.
Guest Post from the Author
An Extreme Case of Battleshock
By Tiffani Burnett-Velez
In 2012, there were more suicides by active duty servicemen and women than there were combat deaths. Every 65 seconds, one of our brave soldiers commits suicide (Haiken). For every American, this is troubling, this is disturbing, but we don’t always know what do about it. The feelings of helplessness when anyone takes their own life is intense, but when those trained to protect and serve their country finally just give up and leave this world of their own volition, it is even more devastating.
I pondered this subject quite a lot when I began working on the manuscript for All This Time, which I started in the spring of 2011. That year, my family experience some trauma of our own, and it changed who each of us were. We’ll never go back to the parents, the children, we were before those events, but we have come through the other side. I know there were times when everything seemed very desperate to me, and I remember laying in bed and realizing, for the first time, that I was incapable at that moment of inspiring my family’s happiness. That’s a hopeless feeling. That happiness was something each of us had to discover for ourselves.
My own uncle committed suicide several years before that, and I was reminded of that sense of loss, as well, while I watched my children and husband endure our own troubles. The questions I had from his suicide informed my thoughts at that moment. How do we help our loved ones who are on the edge, on the brink of leaving us because they just can’t take anymore? The answer is not a simple one. Even when we offer the most far reaching aid, a well-spring of support, sometimes, it is just not enough to cover the pain a soldier has endured. This is where faith comes in, for me, at least. I pray even before all else fails, but that does not mean that I can save everyone I love who needs saving.
I come from a military family, from a long line of American veterans leading all the way back the Revolution itself. A Burnett has served in every war the United States has engaged in since the late 1700’s, and there has been a lot of PTSD within our clan.
In the Civil War, one of my third great grandfathers experienced a head wound at the Battle of Seven Pines, and was partially paralyzed for the rest of his life. He spend the remainder of the war at Chimborozo Hospital struggling with what his doctors called “soldier’s melancholy”. The physicians who cared for him reported that he needed special care, because at night he would have “all manner of terrors” and was “unable to find a restful sleep”. Someone wrote in ironically neat and flowery handwriting, “Under a severe state of battle shock”.
These words stand out to me when I read statistics like the ones above, and my heart breaks for the grandfather dead and gone 40 years before my birth. He lived until the early 1930’s, well into his 90’s, and people spoke of his sometimes frail state, of his shakiness, of his inability to render the war over in his senses, because he felt the triggers deep in his nervous system for the rest of his life.
When I wrote out the modern day effects of PTSD onto Pvt. Thomas Miller, the Marine who commits suicide in my novel All This Time, I thought of all the men I have loved who have endured the scars of battle. I thought of both of my fathers – my biological father and my stepfather – and how war changed them both irrevocably when they were called to it in the 1960’s.
There’s a brilliant essay by writer, Tim O’Brien called The Things They Carried, and nothing has ever better expressed, in my opinion, that glassy-eyed stare of desperation that comes over the faces of those who have seen death up close on numerous occasions. In war, soldiers pack on the weight and continue to add to it even at war’s end. It’s how PTSD works. Yes, there are treatments, and many are very effective, but if every politician were to stop and consider how this young woman, this young man, will be permanently changed by having to fight for his or her own life, or worse, to take another’s, I believe they’d be less likely to send out war decrees.
I wish I could have a moment with Congress the next time they even considered sending our young people off to war. I’d hold up the grainy image of my third great grandfather’s service record and I would read the words his own surgeon wrote in 1862 as a warning for all our US service men and women. I would read it out loud, and I would warn, that we as a nation are all “Under a severe state of battle shock” and that we need a long stretch of peace before making anymore decisions with other people’s lives. Yes, sometimes, war is unavoidable and brave people take up the task of defending strangers with their bodies and their psyche, but other times, we could hold back, I believe.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder presses hard against the tightly knitted love of families and friends, and the strain is sometimes too hard to bear. Yes, many endure, but at what price? The human mind does not heal itself by constantly dodging those who aim to end it. It’s simply not natural.
Haiken, Melanie. “Suicide Rate Among Vets and Active Duty Military Jumps – Now 22 A Day.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 5 Feb. 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2015. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2013/02/05/22-the-number-of-veterans-who-now-commit-suicide-every-day/>.
Her first novel, Budapest, was featured in the New York Book Festival and the 4 2nd Annual Conference of Jewish Librarians and it’s re-release became a 2014 Amazon Bestseller in Literary and Inspirational Fiction.
Her second contemporary novel, All This Time, will be released by Booktrope in 2015, and the second, A Berlin Story, in her bestselling WWII novella series, Embers of War, is an Amazon Historical German Fiction Bestseller.
She has studied English Literature at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania and holds a BA in Cognitive Science from Ashford University. She is currently completing her MFA in Creative Writing.