Post traumatic stress disorder

All posts tagged Post traumatic stress disorder

Short Stories Challenge – The New Veterans by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Published December 3, 2015 by bibliobeth


What’s The New Veterans all about?:

In, The New Veterans a massage therapist discovers she has the power to heal by manipulating the tattoos on a war veteran’s lower torso.

What did I think?:

With Karen Russell’s collection, Vampires In The Lemon Grove, every time this rolls round in my Short Stories Challenge I am never quite certain what I am going to get. The penultimate tale in this strangely satisfying book is The New Veterans, told from the point of view of a masseuse called Beverley who has a very peculiar experience with her latest client, Derek Zeiger who is an Iraqi war veteran and, under the US government new regulations, is entitled to ten free massage sessions as one means of rewarding soldiers returning from war with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The first thing Beverley notices about her patient is the astounding tattoo taking up most of his back and it has a very interesting story behind it. The picture shows an Iraqi village, complete with a river, several huts, cattle, birds, several soldiers and a fire which appears to be the main focus of the tattoo. Derek explains that the tattoo represents the death of his friend Arlo Mackey who was killed during one of their missions in Iraq – Arlo is actually the “fire,” within the picture. Arlo’s mother loaned Derek and another three men in their platoon five hundred dollars each to get the artwork on their backs as a lasting tribute to her son.

“Plenty of guys in my unit got tattoos like this, you know. It’s how the dead live, and the dead walk, see? We have to honor his sacrifice.”

We now come to the point in the story where some serious X-Files type behaviour starts occurring. As Beverley is massaging her patient and listening to his story (which is having a clear therapeutic benefit in itself), something odd starts to happen to Beverley herself which neither she or the reader is expecting. With each additional massage session that Derek attends, the same thing occurs but seems to be getting stronger. It is as if his memories are being manipulated and re-moulded and Derek begins to feel increasingly better, not only from his original complaint of lower back pain but from his stressful and traumatic experience which led to the death of his friend.

The New Veterans was definitely one of the “goodies” of this collection. I enjoyed many things, from the beautiful imagery of the tattoo to the shocking reality of war and I admired how the author combined the two polar extremes to create a story that was entirely fantastical but at the same time felt very real. Beverley herself has not had the easiest of lives but in meeting Derek and being able to lift some of the burden from his shoulders she is the happiest that she can remember being in a long time. As well as being incredibly thought-provoking, I thought this was a very original idea for a story and actually felt disappointed at the end for I’m quite intrigued to know what became of Derek and Beverley as we follow the potential blossoming of a strong relationship. When an author makes you root for her main characters to such an extent, you know the story has got under your skin.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: The Adventure Of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes


Image courtesy of

Talking About The Lie by Helen Dunmore with Chrissi

Published July 11, 2014 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

Set during and just after the First World War, The Lie is an enthralling, heart-wrenching novel of love, memory and devastating loss by one of the UK’s most acclaimed storytellers.

Cornwall, 1920, early spring.

A young man stands on a headland, looking out to sea. He is back from the war, homeless and without family.

Behind him lie the mud, barbed-wire entanglements and terror of the trenches. Behind him is also the most intense relationship of his life.

Daniel has survived, but the horror and passion of the past seem more real than the quiet fields around him.

He is about to step into the unknown. But will he ever be able to escape the terrible, unforeseen consequences of a lie?

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What do you see as “the lie” of the title?

BETH: I’m going to try and answer this question quite vaguely as I don’t want to give away any spoilers! Basically, I think there are quite a lot of lies in this novel made by more than one character. Our main character Daniel has a huge secret about the war that he played a part in but I feel he is also lying to himself about not only the kind of person he is, but how he is coping with life after the Great War i.e. re-adjusting to being a civilian, and that he hasn’t fully dealt with the loss that he experienced while at war. Felicia is also living a lie, pretending that she can cope by herself, alone in a big house with a small child to look after. There are other lies too which seem small at first but have consequences for our characters, basically the title of this book sums it up quite well!
BETH: The story is set over a few time periods in Daniel’s life – pre-war, during the war, and post-war (the present time). Which one did you enjoy the most and why?
CHRISSI: I found it interesting to read from different time periods in Daniel’s life. I think my favourite time to read about was post-war because it was intriguing to see how Daniel’s life experiences affected his present day life.
CHRISSI: The book uses different forms of media i.e. poems. Do you think this worked?
BETH: I was actually pleasantly surprised to see poetry in this novel, as I wasn’t expecting it. Some of the poetry that Daniel can quote by heart is really beautiful and did actually make me want to look up the original work. Before each chapter we also had a paragraph of text with advice for the soldiers of World War I which I found quite moving to read when you consider the amount of men that had to die for the world to be at peace.
BETH: What did you think of the relationship between Daniel and Frederick?
CHRISSI: I really liked that Daniel and Fredrick were such good friends despite their different social standing, they don’t realise the difference between them. I thought Daniel and Fredrick’s relationship became laced with guilt and incredibly affected by the war. I’m trying not to say too much as I don’t know what would spoil it, but Daniel is definitely affected by what happened to Frederick. I wondered if Daniel believed it should never had happened because Fredrick was ‘better’ than him.
CHRISSI: Discuss Daniel’s state of mind throughout the novel.
BETH: Poor Daniel! I really felt for him in this novel after everything he had seen in the war and losing people that he loved the most. Not only this, but he is carrying around a heavy guilt that does not lift but is indeed exacerbated by being in contact with Felicia, the sister of his dearest friend. He is experiencing vivid hallucinations and even smells associated with that terrible period in his life, and often has to re-live certain experiences that have long since passed. When we consider that they did not really recognise or treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the early part of the 20th century, there must have been a number of young men suffering in silence. Daniel’s state of mind, which seems to be getting progressively worse as the story continues, was almost inevitable after the trauma of war.
BETH: Was the ending what you expected?
CHRISSI: I think I began to anticipate that this story wasn’t going to be a happily ever after story. It’s not often that war stories end in a joyful way. It was hard to watch everything unravel, but I do think that the ending was the right ending for this story.  The lies that have been told were never meant with malice, good intentions were at the heart of the lie.
CHRISSI: Did this book live up to your expectations?
BETH: Strangely enough, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel. I enjoyed The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore, which is also a war-time novel, but I think I actually enjoyed this one more. Certainly after answering these questions, and remembering/re-analysing the story, I enjoyed it even more than I thought I did when I finished it, if that makes any sense? It’s definitely one I’m still thinking about.
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: Like you, I’ve read The Greatcoat and enjoyed it, so the answer is yes! I really like Helen Dunmore’s writing, so I’d definitely look into reading more of her work. She is a beautiful writer.
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
BETH’s Star rating:
CHRISSI’s Star rating:
3 Star Rating Clip Art