The horrific things that Daniel experienced in Vietnam have haunted him since his return home. His flashbacks and increasing episodes affect his marriage and his relationship with his children. Added to his trauma is his long held guilt over his baby sister's death so many years ago. He holds himself responsible for the loss of her small life despite not knowing the whole story of her death. His double tragedies from the past continue to live in his present, sometimes more immediately than his actual present does. As he goes about living his life, holding on where he can and letting go where he must, many other people touch his life. It is the stories of these minor, heretofore unexamined characters that form the bulk of the short stories of the second half of this work. Each of the stories in the second half builds a life or backstory for someone mentioned in Daniel's story. Their stories may be far different but they all flow through each others' lives touching briefly, like small streams leaving their trace on each other as they come together to form a larger river of narrative, the narrative of the community around the Rio Grande.
The writing here is quite lyrical and there is a pervading sense of sadness in almost all of the tales. The horror of war and of grief and the way that these twin horrors never leave a person is beautifully rendered as is the dark pull of depression. The first short story told after the novella about Daniel is told from the perspective of several pieces of furniture in his house and that change of perspective, to inanimate but memory bearing objects is a bit disconcerting, especially for readers who expect a novel rather than a collection of stories. But as the reader gets farther into the originally disparate seeming stories, the more the connections to Daniel's story are made evident and the more the community enlarges to encompass many different stories and tragedies and sadnesses. The unconventional structure might throw some readers but the vivid imagery and the continued emotional cost of living is well drawn.
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Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.