I asked Mindy to share something from her writing journey with us. She has graciously revealed her moving and emotional story. I hope it touches you as much as it did me.
PTSD, The Korean War, and Manzanita Oregon
By Mindy Halleck
My father, a decorated Korean War Vet, haunted by the war, once said, “Korea is the war that never was called war, never started and never ended. It’ll come back to haunt.” His concerns over Korea have come to fruition. This makes Korea a contemporary concern in all our lives, tapping into the zeitgeist of era gone by, now returned.
In Return To Sender (RTS) the main protagonist is based, in part, on my father who suffered with PTSD and who lived the rest of his days trying to forget war and remember who he was before Korea. The theme of redemption resonates deeply because it was what he longed for but never found. He turned to religion but felt only judged, and so turned to nature, which is when we discovered Manzanita Oregon; the setting for RTS. But then he turned to alcoholism to numb his pain. Consequently our lives spiraled out of control. His thirst to be heard, understood, and to understand the war he’d experienced went unquenched.
My family vacationed in Manzanita in the 1950s and 60’s, and I knew the place and its people well. Dad was one of the hopeful treasure hunters who honeycombed Neahkahnie Mountain in search of the rumored, elusive Spanish Pirate’s Treasure that, to date, nobody has ever discovered. Manzanita was the only place he felt at peace. When you read the story you’ll see I’ve written in all these components in this adoring daughter’s attempt to write a happy ending for a father who never found one.
1955 ~ Father Theo Riley never wanted to be a priest, nor a killer. The former boxing champion and Korean War veteran gave up more than a career when he went into the Army. He lost the only thing he ever wanted: his love, Andréa Bouvre. Friends thought Theo entered the priesthood to mend his broken heart or atone for the massacred orphans he couldn’t save in Korea.
However, the truth is much darker and more damning, tied to a blood debt and family secret that has haunted Theo since he was a boy. He drinks to forget he ever had a life of his own—waits for death, prays for mercy, and hopes for a miracle. He gets all three when a child goes missing, another shows up on his doorstep, and the love of his life drives back into his world; the seaside hamlet of Manzanita Oregon.
Theo’s dream reunion with Andréa becomes a nightmare when a serial killer who considers himself a holy man targets the town and everyone Theo loves. Drinking days decidedly behind him, Theo and some old warriors set out to send evil back to hell and a few good souls to heaven in RETURN TO SENDER.
POV of protagonist, Theo Riley;
All night I listened for cars, footsteps, noises that didn’t belong. All night, every sound reminded me of Korea’s Karst Caves: sounds, smells, threats hidden in every echo. I tried to recall in which letter I wrote to Andréa about the noisy bats. Was it October ’52, or later?
The children had been terrified of the Daubenton bats that built colonies inside the caves. At night, the scratching sounds and flapping wings was as threatening to them as the sound of footsteps and the CCF running up on us at night was to me. The nun told them the bats were good luck, there to protect us, that they stayed awake at night to keep watch.
The oldest boy, Hai-bin, was the first to call me “Teo.” He rolled his eyes back in his head when the nun said that. In any other world, he’d have been a budding teenager full of angst and attitude, not an undernourished warrior ready to fight, ready to die, not old enough to understand the meaning of either. Not old enough to understand any of Korea’s madness. But then, who was?
As the days, nights, and weeks had gone on, those brave orphans folded the strange noises from the waking Daubenton bats into that place where they carried the heavy, heavy burden of acceptance—they slept through the night with those mysterious guardians taking flight above them. They slept. It became part of their new existence. An existence brittle and rickety as the bamboo bridges that sooner or later would lead us back to a world ablaze outside those caves.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Mindy Halleck is a Pacific Northwest author, blogger and writing instructor. Her short story, The Sound of Rain, which placed in the Writer’s Digest Literary Contest blossomed into her first novel Return to Sender. Halleck blogs at Literary Liaisons and is an active member of the Pacific Northwest writing community. In addition to being a writer, Halleck is a happily married, globe-trotting beachcomber, antiquer, gardener, proud grandma, and three-time cancer survivor. www.MindyHalleck.com
Mindy’s Amazon Page: http://www.amazon.com/Mindy-Sitton-Halleck/e/B004W4LK90/
Google +: https://plus.google.com/+MindyHalleck/posts
Mindy Halleck will be awarding a $100 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.