The Uses of Enchantment
by Ann McMan
December 12, 2012
If anyone out there has any lingering curiosity about what authors do in that lull between the release of their latest books, and the end of their (brief) hiatus from their keyboards, here’s a hint.
I never realized that not being able to read was one of the biggest sacrifices I’d have to make to write—and it seems counterintuitive to me that this would be one of the casualties of my newest hobby-cum-career. And I’m finding out that I have to re-learn how to do it. For example: reading in bed is a penultimate exercise in futility—at least for me. You see…I get up every day at the crack of four-thirty so I have time to write before I head out to my Regrettable Day Job—so by, say, eight-thirty at night, I’m about as lively as a cut stalk of celery that’s been left out in the sun all day.
Does that metaphor work? I was going for limp…just so you get the simile.
But, in my own plodding way, throughout part of the 1.75 hours of actual consciousness I have left when I roll in from the office each night around seven, I’ve been reading. And the book I’ve been reading during the last three weeks since Aftermath got released is Damaged In Service, by my good friend and Bedazzled Ink colleague, Barrett.
This actually is the re-release of Barrett’s 2011 novel that takes the reader on a sometimes-chilling descent into the murky and confounding psychological catacombs that twist and turn inside the psyche of someone afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder—or PTSD. If you’re at all unfamiliar with the emotional tentacles of this now horrifyingly common response to violence or trauma, Damaged In Service will give you a compelling and frightening compendium of how the disorder can wage its silent war in the suburbs of conscious thought—rendering even the strongest and most highly-functioning individuals among us weak and susceptible to misstep and dissociation.
There are other (and better) summary reviews of Barrett’s book available—and I encourage you to check those out for a more unbiased and informed look at this fine first novel. I’ll even include links for you at the bottom of this page. As I said—Barrett is my friend and colleague, and I firmly believe the book can stand alone on its own merits.
I would, however, like to indulge myself by talking about some of the things that the other reviewers haven’t mentioned. There is an incredible richness to me in the way Barrett writes about her beloved New Mexico. These passages in the book—some of them offered in an almost conversational, off-handed way—are beautiful and lyrical descriptions of “The Land of Enchantment.” They paint a picture of a raw and magical place, enriched by time and unspoiled by progress. Reading Barrett’s book, I was transported over and over to a similar world of mystery I first encountered way back in high school (don’t ask how many years ago), when I immersed myself in the works of the legendary Carlos Castaneda. There is a delightful symmetry in the way these two authors talk about the lands they love. Places and place names, with their wonderfully complex and confounding combinations of consonants, resonate with warmth and life, and nearly vibrate right off the pages.
I’ve never been to New Mexico—but after reading Barrett’s book, Damaged In Service, I can close my eyes and imagine it. All its warmth, history, harshness, beauty, and richness of light and color, is right there for the taking. If you find yourself, like me, with a bit of extra time and a hankering for a peek at someplace wildly different, take a tour of the great southwest with Barrett.
And while you’re on this journey, you’ll gain some valuable insights into the stealth plague of PTSD—and experience how two women still can manage to find their rocky, sweet, but oft-obstructed way toward each other in a landscape that time cannot forget.
List of reviews for Damaged In Service:
Footnote: February 19th Barrett will be appearing at the Dallas Jewel Book Club for a signing.