Promise the Moon
Elizabeth Joy Arnold
Bantam, May 2008, $6.99
Two months have passed since Toby went mute and his older sister Anna pretended she is okay but sneaks down to look at the picture every night. Their mom Natalie hides her anger and fear from her broken kids, but whenever she gets a chance she kicks the gravestone of their father, her husband Josh.
Two months and the marines are kicking them off Camp Pendleton as the three are no longer military family not since Josh splattered his brains in their garage for Toby to find him. To help them adjust Natalie has been corresponding as Josh from heaven writing to Anna and Toby, who respond back. Her masquerade has helped Toby, who has begun talking, but Anna remains stoic hiding her fears while insisting Josh is talking to her; telling her things only he would know. Natalie is worried that someone else knew Josh intimately and is revealing family secrets to Anna, but who? Could it be Iraq, which his service time and a nasty incident led to his suicide or someone else? A broken family struggles with the aftermath of suicide.
PROMISE THE MOON is not an easy book to read as the angst is stratospheric, but is a relevant tale that focuses on the aftermath of a military suicide on the family members. The story line is character driven; more so by mom and daughter who rotate viewpoint as each uses lies to hide their depression behind a veneer of coping from each other and especially from vulnerable Toby. Fascinatingly a third generation also conceals truths from the others. Military suicide is a serious current issue that the leadership struggles with helping returning soldiers from the war zone to prevent, but Elizabeth Joy Arnold makes the case that more must be done for the families when it occurs.