In Janyre Tromp’s novel, Shadows in the Mind’s Eye, Sam Mattas is on his way home from WWII. He’s changed and scarred physically and mentally by what he has experienced, seen, and had to do. He jumps at loud sounds. He’s not always sure what’s real and what’s imagined.
But he’s going home. Back to his dear wife, Annie, and Rosie, the daughter he’s looking forward to getting to know. Good, hard, familiar work on the farm and peace and quiet will set him right soon. He hopes.
Annie has dealt with trauma of her own even before her marriage. Her abusive father was a corrupt judge. When she was a girl, she found her dead mother in a lake. But Sam rescued her from all that. Life was hard while he was away. She had to scrabble for supplies, do all the farm work herself, and take in her mother-in-law.
But Sam is on his way home. She knows, from what her mother-in-law told her about her husband’s return from war, that it might take a while for things to return to normal. But everything will be all right.
Except everything is not all right.
Much has changed, and their wounds run deep. They have to learn new rhythms and ways of relating.
Then Sam starts seeing things. Lights in the woods, men in the shadows. Sam is convinced that something nefarious is happening out there, and he must protect his family. However, his delusions only put them in harm’s way.
But what if he is not actually hallucinating?
The chapters switch back and forth between Sam’s and Annie’s points of view. Their mistakes and learning how to deal with each other is interwoven with the suspense of what’s actually happening behind their house, not knowing whom to trust, and everything not seeming as it appears.
I had not heard of Janyre Tromp until Anita interviewed her about this book on a podcast, Working Through Trauma in Literature and Real Life. Janyre’s experience with caregiver trauma and her grandfather’s experiences after the war led her to study PTSD. Her book was not out yet at that time, but I pre-ordered it then.
Some of the quotes that stood out to me:
Happily ever after don’t happen lessen each person in marriage works. It’s like a team of horses, They both have to carry their own load (p. 155).
Once you let yourself start feeling, it all breaks loose (p.147).
I stood quiet, soaking in her peace. Every motion was calm, sure, She knew where she belonged, and that sent her roots deep into the ground, able to weather whatever life threw at her (p. 122).
You’d think holding joy right up against sadness would shatter a body. But it don’t. Joy…it sneaks in all around where things is broke, sticks it all together and finds a way to make you whole. It’s where things is broke that joy shows through.
My one criticism is that characters say “Lord Almighty” and such. In my book, taking the name of the Lord of glory and using it as an expression is taking His Name in vain. If something is done in vain, it’s useless; it hasn’t accomplished the purpose for which it was meant. God’s name in meant to be reverenced, used in prayer, in worship, or in talking about Him.
Other than that, I really enjoyed the book. Parts near the end were quite suspenseful. I liked the realistic way Sam and Annie reached out to each other yet made mistakes as well.