In this novel, a disabled Vietnam veteran sets aside his own problems to help his caregiver right a wrong: A couple has been preying on the elderly and infirm in the peaceful, small town of Gulch Fork, Arkansas.
Rob Dean suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), painful neuropathy, and other physical problems from his time in Vietnam and exposure to Agent Orange. Although a surly loner at first, he softens towards his certified nursing assistant Samantha Caminos when she tells him about her alcoholic father, also a veteran and possible PTSD sufferer. As Samantha and Rob become friends, she begins to understand the impact of her father’s behavior on her family.
When Samantha learns that Rob has been swindled by Smokey Jones and his wife, relative newcomers to town, she investigates and soon pieces together the scope of Smokey’s operations both as church “pastor” and meth dealer. The fight becomes personal when she discovers that her father has inadvertently become involved in Smokey’s operations.
Although the writing is smooth, the story is needlessly complicated. The Smokey Jones character never adds up (on the one hand, he’s able to pull off sophisticated operations; on the other, he’s a buffoonish hillbilly). His real purpose is to serve as a vehicle to expound on everything from PTSD to addiction to the value of forgiveness. The characters veer between talking about 9/11 conspiracy theories, why folks are wrong to consider Alcoholics Anonymous (and Samantha’s Jehovah’s Witness religion) a cult and how Rob can get the Veterans Administration to be more responsive to his medical issues.
The story is based on real-life events: Co-author Bob Smith served in Vietnam, suffers from PTSD and neuropathy and is a former patient of co-author Sara Rhodes. It’s clear the authors are fond of each other judging from the lighthearted exchanges between their fictional counterparts. And despite its flaws, the story will likely strike a chord with Vietnam vets, who will empathize with Rob’s plight.
Also available as an ebook.