The story of Gerald and Kathleen, a helicopter crew chief and a U.S. Army Nurse, who meet in Vietnam after Gerald is seriously wounded. Gerald is transferred to Brooke Army Hospital near San Antonio, for rehabilitation. Kathleen is transferred to Brooke because she has served three tours in Vietnam and is on the point of total burn out.
Gerald recovers, leaves the Army, and tries to return to civilian life. Kathleen leaves the Army, opting to stay in San Antonio, working at St. Mary's Hospital.
For twenty years they experience the aftermath of war, something we now call PTSD. Finally they begin separately traveling the roads they hope will take them home.
Once again, Bert Carson's writing has grabbed me by the gut, slung me into a world I couldn't know, and left me gasping at his soulful, creative brilliance. Such a well crafted story leaves one with the feeling that, even though fiction, this author has lived this stuff; he has birthed these characters from his own harrowing war experiences and brought them to credible life here.
Bert is a natural-born raconteur....on any subject. Ask anyone who knows him. If he'd been born in West Africa, he would have been the highly revered griot, traveling from village to village relating the stories and lore of the times, never ever missing a detail, a fact or a beat.
Like all of his writing, this novel has a wonderful redemptive quality. Even when he's taking you down through the dark, harrowing valleys of human experience, you can rest assured he will get you to the other side renewed, refreshed and ready to climb with hope and vigor up to the mountain top, where the light of the universe has transformed him and thereby, you.
No one who hasn't been through war really knows much about PTSD * (see below); it's a term tossed around so often these days the reality of it sort of gets overlooked. In 'Maddog & Miss Kitty', the author has given us one of the best pieces of writing I've ever seen which is both entrancing, entertaining, and educational. He weaves the reality of this condition into the story so cleverly, you don't even know you're learning something, and indeed, one is left with a new, deeper empathy for those who have served in our military. I knew of these things before, but I didn't really know them til I read this amazing story.
The four short stories after the end of the novel are a lovely bonus, beautifully written, and continue his underlying theme. Thoroughly enjoyable!
Bert Carson, as I've said before, has an amazing intellect which shines through all his work, and a wonderful humility and soulfulness which touches us deeply. This novel will stick with you, I promise. I strongly urge you to read it.
*Trauma and PTSD
The essential psychological effect of trauma is a shattering of innocence - utter disillusionment: it means a loss of faith that there is any safety, predictability, or meaning in the world, or any safe place to hide. These events are often unable to be processed by the mind and body as other experiences are, and due to their overwhelming and shocking nature, they are not integrated or digested. The trauma might then have continued effects, haunting the survivor and preventing normal life from continuing until the person receives help.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition created by exposure to a psychologically distressing event outside the range of usual human experience, one which would be markedly distressing to almost anyone, and which causes intense fear, terror, and helplessness. The trauma is an assault to the person’s biology and psyche. The event may have happened recently or a long time ago, leaving that person with lingering conditions such as hyper-arousal, re-experiencing, or avoidance (numbing down).
Trauma, like unresolved grief, can cause overwhelming feelings, depression, agitation and anxiety, mistrust of others, difficulty in relationships, shame, guilt, despair or a sense of meaninglessness, and helplessness and hopelessness. Returning to one's previous family, social or work life is impossible for some, and psychotherapy provides a safe place for trauma survivors to tell their story, feel less isolated, and tolerate knowing what happened.
Psychologists help patients make connections between feelings and symptoms occurring in the present and aspects of the traumatic event(s). Through treatment, survivors begin to make sense of what happened and how it affected them, understand themselves and the world again in light of it, and ultimately restore relationships and connections in their lives.
--Jo VonBargen 2012