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Reviewed by Janet Jensen for Readers' Favorite
It is 1946 and Christina Tucker is ready for a new start in life. A nurse who has cared for injured WW11 soldiers, she moves to Longstock, Wisconsin, to work for Dr. Samuel Barlow, a general practitioner. Christina is soon smitten with Dr. Barlow's nephew, Tyler Sutter, and drawn to Tyler’s brother Holden, who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. She discovers that Dr. Barlow is addicted to morphine, which he takes to ward off nightmares from his service in the Great War (World War 1). Christina becomes the unknowing target of Luther, an alcoholic who blames Dr. Barlow for the death of his younger brother, Donny, though in truth Donny died from injuries sustained in an auto accident in which Luther is at fault. Vowing revenge, Luther thinks that by hurting Christina, he will hurt Barlow. Christina is also the target of Annette, who has loved Tyler since childhood and has fantasies that they will marry, though Tyler has never cared for her. Will she just get rid of Christina?
Meanwhile, Christina becomes the confidante of both Dr. Barlow and Holden, and encourages them to talk about their experiences in the war, experiences that traumatized them and keep them from moving forward in their lives. Christina is quick to judge and offers simplistic solutions for very complex problems, but she seems to get through to Dr. Barlowe and Holden, helping them deal with their unresolved war traumas, and she learns to appreciate and love Tyler, the multi-talented, complex and caring man that he is. Some events occur offstage, which is less effective than seeing the events firsthand through the eyes of the characters as they happened. The issue of soldiers returning home from war with untreated post-traumatic stress disorder is addressed (and is just as pertinent for today’s veterans; though treatment is more readily available now, many continue to suffer).
There are interesting well-drawn minor characters in this book including Callie, a wise and nurturing black woman who runs Dr. Barlow’s office, and Eunice, an elderly patient with whom Dr. Barlow has a longstanding love-hate relationship. When she dies, however, we learn that Dr. Barlow has lost a true friend and confidante. There is one descriptive sex scene which seems inconsistent with the overall tone of the book.
Though the various story lines climax with some violent confrontations, the epilogue gives closure to each character’s story in a satisfying conclusion. The audio narration by Susan Boyce is excellent, as she has a distinctive voice for each character.