Monday, October 29, 2012

Heaven Should Fall Blog Tour: guest post & review

We are thrilled to be participating in another book tour for Rebecca Coleman. We host the Heaven Should Fall Blog Tour and Scavenger Hunt presented by BookTrib.

http://booktrib.com
Heaven Should Fall by Rebecca Coleman
Literary fiction*Paperback, 368 pages*Publisher: Harlequin MIRA (September 25, 2012) 


Alone since her mother’s death, Jill Wagner wants to eat, sleep and breathe Cade Olmstead when he bursts upon her life—golden, handsome and ambitious. Even putting college on hold feels like a minor sacrifice when she discovers she’s pregnant with Cade’s baby. But it won’t be the last sacrifice she’ll have to make.

Retreating to the Olmsteads’ New England farm seems sensible, if not ideal: Jill and Cade will regroup and welcome the baby, surrounded by Cade’s family. But the remote, ramshackle place already feels crowded. Cade’s mother tends to his ailing father, while Cade’s pious sister, her bigoted husband and their rowdy sons overrun the house. Only Cade’s brother, Elias, a combat veteran with a damaged spirit, gives Jill an ally amidst the chaos, along with a glimpse into his disturbing childhood. But his burden is heavy, and she alone cannot kindle his will to live

The tragedy of Elias is like a killing frost, withering Cade in particular, transforming his idealism into bitterness and paranoia. Taking solace in caring for her newborn son, Jill looks up to find her golden boy is gone. In Cade’s place is a desperate man willing to endanger them all in the name of vengeance…unless Jill can find a way out.

by Rebecca Coleman

How can we as a society be more 
supportive of veterans? 

Not long ago I clicked through a Facebook link to read the heartbreaking and deeply moving love story of Taylor Morris, a U.S. soldier rendered quadruple amputee by an IED in Afghanistan, and his girlfriend Danielle. Told in a series of photographs, the story of love and sacrifice and resilience moved me to tears, and I was thrilled to see that readers of the website The Chive had raised over $250,000 to buy Taylor his dream cabin beside a lake. The story is beautiful by any measure, but I am a hopeless softy for any story of a soldier's homecoming. Turn on a video of a dog bounding out of the house to greet his returned master, and I'm blubbering within seconds. 

The trouble with these things, and the sense of triumph and comfort they leave us with-- that they're home, that they're bouncing back, that everything can go back to normal now-- is that it's false. Rubbing the dog's belly isn't the last scene in that soldier's personal war movie; most likely, it's somewhere in the middle. The Department of Veterans' Affairs statistics show that between 25 and 30% of soldiers display symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and many don't seek treatment in the first place. Of those that do, many receive ineffective or halfhearted treatment. While researching my novel Heaven Should Fall, I was determined to paint an accurate picture both of PTSD and of the VA's typical handling of it in a soldier reluctant to admit his need for help. The result of that is Elias Olmstead, a young guy full of loves and hopes and pain he can't articulate, who patrols his own house at night, sleeps in his sneakers, and struggles not to freak out at loud noises and throttle his sister's kids. 

The thing about PTSD is, it affects not only the soldier who suffers from it, but that soldier's entire family. Husbands or wives welcome home a partner who can seem very unlike the loved one they sent off to war, and the resulting friction impacts the kids. A soldier's parents, too, can feel helpless and deeply troubled to see an adult son or daughter carrying the invisible scars of battle-- all the more if they encouraged or warned against it. The suicide rate among active-duty soldiers and combat veterans is climbing to an alarming level. And as community mental health services become, more and more, the victims of budget cuts, these families are left with fewer and fewer resources from which to seek help. Especially in rural areas, these facilities are often the lifeline for families who live far from a VA hospital or who-- in the case of unmarried partners, for example-- aren't eligible for those benefits. To put it bluntly, those who claim to support military families, but favor candidates who want to paint every social service as a frivolous use of tax dollars, are escalating the problem. Never in our nation's history has there been a more important time to support community-based mental health care than now. 

I know that the picture I'm painting is a grim one, but positive change is within our grasp. We can support organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project and the Coming Home Project, and we can stay mindful, this election season, of how our votes will impact the resources that military families depend on to help their soldiers come home in mind as well as body. Because the feel-good stories feel best when we know there's substance to our actions, and that we're here for them, as long as it takes.

Excerpt:

“No way. You just got back.”

“All the more reason. Floor’s still better than what I’m used to.” He looked at the girlie posters on the walls. “Some black guy, huh?”

“He only dates white women.”

Elias chuckled again. “Dad would shit a brick.”

Cade shrugged. “Back in his glory days. Since the stroke, not much pisses him off.”

“If you say so. Bet that’d still get a rise out of him on a good day.”

About The Author:
Rebecca Coleman

A New Yorker by birth, Rebecca Coleman grew up in the close suburbs of Washington, D.C., in an academic family. A year spent in Germany, at the age of eight, would later provide the basis for the protagonist’s background in “The Kingdom of Childhood.” She first learned about the Waldorf School movement at age 14 and quickly developed a fascination with its culture and philosophies. After studying elementary education for several years at the University of Maryland, she graduated with a degree in English, awarded with honors. She lives in suburban Maryland with her husband and their four young children.

Review:
Author Rebecca Coleman has this uncanny ability to channel her characters with such realism, I forget I'm reading a work of fiction because my mind is so wrapped up around her people, um, characters. As she did with her previous novel, Kingdom of Childhood, she has created people, lifestyles and situations that remain with the reader long after the reading is done. 

Jill doesn't have a family and while in college, she meets Cade and falls for him in a head over heels and more sort of way. Cade is the embodiment of perfection for her with his charm, good looks, and he aspires to be successful in politics. Jill sees her future in him and while he loves her too, he finds the picture perfect wife of a rising political candidate. But simply being a trophy wife is not the only concern Jill has to contend with. An unexpected pregnancy has Cade doing what he has always dreaded: unable to support his beloved, he brings her home. Why should the wonderful Cade be afraid of Jill meeting the Olmsteads?

The author tells her story through the varying viewpoints of some of her characters. Jill is the primary narrator but we are privy to the thoughts of Cade, his brother, Wade, and their mother, Leela. Multi-facted, deeply flawed and wounded (as is the case with Wade, who is suffering from PTSD--post traumatic stress disorder), we see first hand that looks are incredibly deceiving. Cade, so into tanning, had wanted to keep Jill away from his dysfunctional family: an abusive father suffering from debilitating strokes who hates to see any form of weakness in people, a mother beaten down by her life, a brother physically, mentally and emotionally scarred from the battlefronts of war and home, a Barbie-like married sister named Candy, blissfully ignorant to the truth. 

There is so much going on in Heaven Should Fall that my review cannot mention. There is drama, romance, thrilling aspects, mystery, racism, bigotry, tragedy, and more shaping this novel into a literary tour de force. Should Jill bring her baby up in the type of household Cade's family stands for? The answer can found within the pages of Heaven Should Fall. Deeply moving, involving, and touching, Rebecca Coleman shaves through the layers of her characters to create an unforgettable portrait of a picture perfect American family far removed from perfection. I also applaud the author for bring to light how our society treats our veterans (especially those with PTSD).

Rating: 4

Cover comment: I like it. After reading the book, I understand the cover more.

Book source: I received a copy from the publisher in return for my honest review during a book tour.


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