Review of The Cracked Mirror, Reflections of an Appalachian Son, by Billy Ray Chitwood
Hello again! It's been awhile since I've posted on here but with the kids home for summer holidays and all the activities that come with that, my time has been limited. I also apologize for not keeping up with my reading of other blogs. I did, however, manage to write a guest post for a talented author and fellow member of Rave Reviews Book Club, D.L. Finn.
But this blog is not about me, and I wish to move on with a review that is a well-deserved five stars. The synopsis is written just below, followed by my thoughts on the book.
When Prentice Paul Hiller enters the senior care facility he brings with him not only a hip surgery gone wrong, but a mirror of his past, cracked with the stress of all his memories: a family broken apart by their Appalachian circumstances and the 'great depression'; a childhood tainted by a father's abusive nature; an impetuous marriage and a sorrowful divorce; a subsequent search of 'isms' and for love and meaning in California bars; a tableau of horrible events, including a senseless murder and a desert survival.
THE CRACKED MIRROR, Reflections of an Appalachian Son, is a search for some semblance of legacy by PP Hiller as he feels the weight of aging and a perceived inconsequental life, In an Arizona senior care facility he bonds with Greta Fogel, herself a patient and a former clinical psychologist. Encouraged by Greta, PP writes of his life, his heritage, his mistakes, the events that have shaped him, and the demon within that he cannot dispel. He gives his passionate views on criminal justice, love, politics, religion, war, and his favorite writers. Greta gives her insight and support, telling some of her own life's secrets. There is pain in the writing of his memoir, but there is also closure and a guarded inner peace. This short stay in the care facility brings more clarity to PP's life and yet another memory to store away... to take with him to the 'Sea of Cortez'.
"In the end my story must be like so many others, the story of a simple kid who grew up eating some emotional soup and spending a lifetime trying to digest it."
Prentice Paul Hiller is a deep thinker who has a strong opinion about everything. Aging and suffering from a hip injury, the man is forced to spend time recovering in a senior nursing complex. At first, he judges the staff he dubs, 'the greenies,' with a cynical mindset. He is plagued by painful memories and guilt over past mistakes, his view of life is pretty dim.
That all begins to change after he meets Greta, a temporary resident and former clinical psychologist who encourages Prentice to talk and write about them. The story runs in a dual narrative style, each chapter alternates between the distant past and his current life in the nursing home. I appreciated this style, as it linked his life experiences as the possible cause for his mental and emotional anguish. An abusive father, the murder of a beloved uncle, a failed marriage, and a child who developes a drug addiction, are only a few of the ghosts that haunt this poor man.
The reader cannot help but be drawn into the drama, joy, trauma, mischief, and heartbreak that makes up the life of Prentice. The personal growth and healing that takes place during his stay at the home is encouraging, and character growth is what makes a story great! He comes to an undertsanding, not only about himself, but others, as well. His abusive father had his own demons, and there is both dark and light in almost everyone and everyplace. He learns to forgive those who have trespassed against him, including himself. He sees the world with new eyes, including those meanie 'greenies.'
The only issue, and it might be just a personal pet peeve, is the frequent use of parenthesis in the writing. It's just not my thing, so others may not be as opposed.
Despite this one quirk, I highly recommend this book. If you are into interesting life stories where the main character comes to personal growth and understanding, this is a must-read.
To purchase your copy, you can do so at Amazon.com