Veterans’ Affairs: Joey Sullivan, a veteran of the Iraq War, just got his nursing degree and is ready to start working with vets at a local hospital. Things go wrong from day one, however, as he’s contacted by the spirits of dying vets who torment him in his dreams with memories of their horrific war experiences. The spirits won’t leave Joey alone until he agrees to help them check off the last items on their bucket lists. In the meantime Joey continues to struggle with his own memories of war, grappling with the aftermath of that fateful day when his friend triggered a bomb that blasted him to bits, and gave Joey a traumatic brain injury that might be responsible for the second sight that lets him commune with the spirits of the dying vets. War may be hell, but things only get worse when you get home.-Goodreads
Veterans’ Affairs Review
In Veterans’ Affairs a vet comes home from Iraq with PTSD and a mild TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). After making the decision to get back on his feet and get a job at the local VA hospital, he discovers that his TBI has opened him up to new experiences. That these experiences are ones he neither wants nor needs is beside the point. Finding himself at the mercy of things beyond his control, Joey is pushed to his limits and beyond. And still, they won’t let him rest.
Veterans’ Affairs is a really hard book to review, because it doesn’t feel like it fits particularly well in any genre. It’s not a really a thriller or mystery because you figure out what’s going on pretty quickly. There’s some crazy stuff that happens, but nowhere near enough to mark it as a horror. It’s more of a drama with paranormal elements than anything. It’s well written, disconcerting, and somewhat unsettling.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a horrible thing all by itself. Its treatable, but the stigma attached to it is huge. People who have it are often afraid to admit they have it or to seek treatment for it because of the fear of being ‘crazy’. It can wreck your life and, whilst some people are lucky enough that the symptoms lessen, can get harder and harder to bear. Often, people with PTSD feel there’s only one way out. Many vets, even those without PTSD, end up feeling there’s only way to escape the current situation they’re in. In fact, there was a study done a few years ago that stated that 22 veterans a DAY committed suicide. That’s a disturbingly high number.
Joseph Hirsch does a great job in addressing PTSD, TBI, and the life of wounded veterans after they return to the United States. He doesn’t sugarcoat things. He also does a great job of addressing the views of the different wars, and how the veterans from each are treated. World War II with something approaching reverence, the Vietnam War being the dirty secret, etc. The objective observations combined with the first person view given of the situations when Joey finds himself reliving experiences from WWII and the Vietnam war force the reader to confront the realities of combat. The fact that no matter which war it was, the situations are horrific, and the scars they leave will never fully heal.
Veterans’ Affairs doesn’t hold back from addressing anything, including racism and hatred. The main character feels real enough that it seems like he could step off the pages at any moment. Apart from the paranormal aspect, he’s just that believable. He’s not perfect. He’s not a macho man. Doesn’t have rockstar good looks or a genius IQ. He’s a guy that was in a war, and is now just trying to help others and help himself. Even when his thoughts are somewhat offensive, it didn’t really bother me as a reader because of who the character was. That was just how Joey thought, and that’s all there was to it.
This really is a great read. The only problem I really had with it was the somewhat abrupt ending. I will say, though, I don’t think this is a book many women will enjoy. It’s definitely tailored more towards male readers. I liked it perfectly fine, but as I’m not the typical female when it come to reading preferences, that doesn’t speak volumes for its female accessibility. Overall, while it’s not perfect, and it doesn’t really send a positive message, I think Veterans’ Affairs is a comforting read in its own way. Joey is a character that will stay with you long after you’ve read the last page.
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