Protagonist Hugh Waters made his big break with a screenplay he wrote that was picked up for film. Waters thought he had finally gotten out of his dead-end job when the producer who bought the rights died. His replacement – Hedda Chase -- is a brash, hard-nosed, unlikeable character who decided she no longer wanted this screenplay to make it to the big screen. Chase never thought by turning down Hugh’s screenplay would prompt him to come after her.
Waters was one of those characters seemed like an average guy. But then something snapped, and he became the unassuming villain in the story. There weren’t any likeable traits about this character, and parts of his past would make you cringe. On one of his manic escapades he meets a homeless woman named Daisy. After letting Daisy spend the night in his hotel, she later appears at a screening of a film Waters attended. Daisy played a role in the documentary that Waters was viewing; he found it to be an odd coincidence.
Waters wanted to talk to Daisy after the screening, but that didn’t sit well with Daisy’s date, an Iraq war veteran. Denny Rios suffers from PTSD, and when Hugh relentlessly approached Daisy, Rios beat him to a pulp. Daisy was terrified by Denny’s reaction and started to question why she was in the relationship.
There were many twists and turns throughout the book, the characters were intertwined in surprising ways. The character that captivated my attention the most was Rios.
The author did her research on this character. Brundage interviewed veterans at Soldier's Heart in Troy, N.Y. I believe that she captured in words what it is like for veterans to come home wounded.
I have mentioned a couple of times my husband’s love for the weapon that he had in Iraq. When you serve three tours, your weapon becomes your partner. Rios “… missed his M16. His weapon was like an old girlfriend who‘d walked out on him and there was just this empty space now. Being without it gave him an ache in his belly. Sometimes he couldn’t eat. Sometimes he would wake up with a start with his heart going about a million miles a minute and all he could do was cry.”
Rios had been shot in the leg and walked with a limp. He was glad that he made it our alive but still struggled with what happened overseas. Denny thought “Nobody could really help you. You had to sort things out on your own. He carried his stories around in his pockets, in his fists, like stones.” This last sentence is how I feel a lot of our warriors feel after coming home.
While my husband has never been great with words, I am always looking for explanations of what it felt like to be blown up. Brundage’s description of Rios’ injury paints a vivid picture of that moment: “They tell you it’s going to hurt, but this was a medieval pain, this was the pain of the rack, stretching your flesh into something else. It was like nothing he‘d ever experienced. You couldn’t compare it to anything. Maybe like a train running into you. Something to that effect.”
Rios ends up being the unlikely hero in the story. There were many times while reading Rios’ words, tears pricked my eyes. I could feel his pain, the feeling of being lost, not fitting in. I don’t want to spoil the ending, you can find out more about Brundage and the book here.