Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Angelia Sparrow/Naomi Brooks - Shell Shocked

Sean Dempsey came home from Iraq with artificial knees, scorched retinas and a lot of baggage. He supplements his disability checks with money made writing romance novels under a female pseudonym, ironic as he has grown very nervous around women since a certain suicide bomber. When he meets Gabriel Herne, legless phone psychic, the sparks startle him. It's everything he's written about and never believed.
Swept into a whirlwind romance, Sean has to learn about his newfound bisexuality and his lover's pagan faith at the same time. And when he has a religious experience of his own, he discovers everything changes in its time, just like the Wheel of the Year.

Comment: This is the story of two men with serious physical and psychological problems.
Sean is a war veteran with PTSD and he suffers both agoraphobia and claustrophobia. He is an amputee from the knees down but has prosthetic legs. He writes to gain extra money but he has nightmares everyday about the explosion that killed his team and destroyed his body, so he takes pills and can't spend a day without them.
Gabriel is an amputee of both legs. The reason why is explained further in the story so I won't spoil it. He works as psychic and has a phone line from where he gains ore money. He also needs pills to bear the pain. Gabriel is a beautiful man but no one looks at him twice because of his disability.
The two guys meet in the clinic where they are given their pills and the story starts when Sean takes the step to invite Gabriel to a cup of coffee. In that first conversation Gabriel tells Sean how long it's been since someone teated as a human being and how that simple action can make his day.

This story is labeled a romance and it does have one and it has an HEA, but to me, personally, this isn't to be read as a romance. It's a lesson to learn about people who are different and that deserve the romance yes, but the way it's written...
What I mean to say is, we see their lives, see them falling in love and even the trials to live together - some days better than others - but always, always with the reality of how it is in front of us. They're poor, they have to do extra work because their money isn't enough. They live in awful conditions, but they can't afford better. They need pills to survive each day. Gabriel is bullied by some kids because they think it's fun to mock someone without legs. Sean has panic attacks when going to the supermarket. They're verbally and physically abused at the clinic by one of the nurses because they can't defend themselves. Almost anything in their lives is worth the trouble, but they still try and start developing a relationship.
I think part of the beauty of the tale is how they try. Sometimes just trying helps. But it's a hard story to read because who knows how many people are in same conditions of poverty and feeling unworthy and we don't even know? It's another wake up to a reality that's around us and we don't even care.
During the story we see how Gabriel's attempts to help Sean are good because Sean can finally walk further each day and even gets on a bus too. Never alone, but still. And Sean loves Gabriel like a man and tells him he never thinks of him as legless. I loved the small, but at the same time huge demonstrations of love between them. Even when things were horrible to them, they still looked after each other.

In the end, this is a gritty story, a hard lesson like I said. No one is perfect but sometimes it's easier to ignore the physical ones because it's more obvious. Some scenes in the book were very hard to read about. It made me feel bad and ashamed to think I might ignore people too because it's too much work to think of someone with disabilities having the same right to happiness. It's a very shocking lesson, but I think it certainly helps to open one's eyes.
Despite all the themes in the book, even the paganism Gabriel's stands for, it's out perception of what others might be going through that makes this story worth reading.

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