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Sunday, January 8, 2012
Visiting an Era Woman's Fiction All Too Often Ignores
I had the privilege of reading author Calisa Rhose's debut novel, Home, several months before its release. I was asked to withhold my review until it became available, but I must tell you it was hard to curb my enthusiasm!
Home, part of the Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll series released by The Wild Rose Press, is an exciting and mysterious ride through a time period often ignored in today's romances. Set in Vietnam era Oklahoma, Home follows the lives of returning army medic Sam Callahan, the town outcast Poppy Tippen, and a doll with a mysterious and supernatural past.
I loved this novel for more reasons than I can list, but what has stayed with me all of these months is its hero, Sam Callahan. Ms. Rhose captured the essence of an American soldier that is timeless. She took the reader inside the tortured soul of a man haunted by what he had seen and experienced in a savage war and let us feel Sam's conflict over serving his country when the cost was putting his life on hold and silencing his conscious.
I could not help but be reminded of how much our soldiers, then and now, need the support of their countrymen; support that goes much deeper than sticking a magnetic yellow ribbon onto the back of their minivan.
Through the eyes of Sam, we see a man struggling to adapt to normalcy when all he can see is the demons of violence he lived with for so many years. We see it when Poppy Tippen, a high school mate that has loved Sam silently for years, reaches out to him and attempts to express her love only to be pushed away. We see it when Sam deals with his mother's unrealistic expectations, and in how Sam deals with the death of his father while he was overseas.
In short, Ms. Rhose lets us all walk a mile in the shoes of a soldier and shows us that war isn't all guns and glory. Home may have been set in the 1970's but it's message is timeless and especially relevant to us today. As a friend of many returning soldiers, as one who has witnessed the struggles our men and women face upon their return to 'normal' life, and as one who has watched families disintegrate because of the stress inflicted on a spouse, I thank Calisa for penning such an honest portrayal of those whom we as a nation ask to wage war.
Home isn't just about a soldier struggling with PTSD, however. Home is a sweet journey of blossoming romance, family conflict, and a mystery surrounding a gypsy's doll. I loved Home and am excited to know that the journey of the Scrimshaw doll will continue. The Wild Rose Press' Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll is similar to the premise of movie Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The doll's history and exploits will be explored by several authors; I am eagerly awaiting the next one!
Home, by Calisa Rhose
What could a gypsy and a Vietnam veteran have in common?
Silvertown's outcast, Poppy Tippen, has loved football hero Sam "The Force" Callahan forever. But he never seemed to know she was alive. Now he's home from the war and she suddenly finds herself comforting him from the demons of "that damn war." Is his attention merely an escape from the haunting nightmares? Or does she hold the interest of the only man she's ever truly loved?
Sam Callahan's only solace from the war nightmares wrecking his life comes in the unlikely form of a gypsy girl with stigmas of her own. He's known Poppy his entire life, but there's something different about her now. Something special he desperately wants to hold on to. Can he convince her she's the only thing he needs to put the past behind him?
"I’ll always want you, Poppy.”
Her head shook in automatic denial. “You’ll want a girl who fits your life. Not some gypsy with no family lineage to brag about. Your momma won’t accept that, either. She’ll make you choose someone like Connie, someone who fits into your world. Not the girl everyone avoids and whispers about behind her back. You’re gonna be the town’s doctor. You need an uppity wife who will make you proud.”
When Sam laughed, his chest shuddered against her back. Deep, husky, real. He turned her in his arms and looked down at her, smiling. “Poppy, do you honestly think I give a damn what people think? Look at me! I’m the town outcast, the survivor who should have died saving the others, not be here planning a future that includes a wife, a medical practice.
“I shimmy under park benches, run from my mother’s lipstick, for God’s sake. I wake up screaming and crying over nothing in the middle of the night, crawl under my bed and hide, shaking, until morning. Hell, I can’t even be a doctor because I haven’t finished school yet.”
“I didn’t know. It must be awful for you.” No matter how it hurt Poppy to know he used her, it felt much worse to know how he hurt alone.
“The only time it isn’t awful is when I’m with you. When I think of you.”