THESE GENTLE WOUNDS by Helene Dunbar
Release Date: May 8, 2014
Paperback, 312 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Tough Issues / PTSD
Sometimes I wish I’d lost a leg or something. Everyone can understand that. They never get it when what’s been broken is inside your head.Five years after an unspeakable tragedy that changed him forever, Gordie Allen has made a new home with his half-brother Kevin. Their arrangement works since Kevin is the only person who can protect Gordie at school and keep him focused on getting his life back on track.But just when it seems like things are becoming normal, Gordie’s biological father comes back into the picture, demanding a place in his life. Now there’s nothing to stop Gordie from falling into a tailspin that could cost him everything—including his relationship with Sarah, the first girl he’s trusted with the truth. With his world spinning out of control, the only one who can help Gordie is himself . . . if he can find the strength to confront the past and take back his future.
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Helene Dunbar usually writes features about fiddles and accordions for Irish Music Magazine, but she’s also been known to write about court cases, theater, and Native American Indian tribes.
She's lived in two countries, six states, and is currently holed up in Nashville with her husband, daughter, two cats, and the world’s friendliest golden retriever.
THESE GENTLE WOUNDS is Helene’s debut novel with Flux Books.
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PlaylistsBands that no longer exist:
As anyone who writes to a playlist knows, the music you listen to day after day, and let’s be honest, year after year, while you’re writing, and revising, and then editing a book, tends to take on a life of its own. I know that I feel a connection to my playlist songs that is different from the connection I feel to a song or band I just happen to like and listen to casually. So it’s painful to see that connection severed because a band breaks up or is reincarnated in a completely different configuration.
During the writing of an earlier manuscript, I discovered a band from Oxford, England, called A Silent Film (in the interest of honesty, I’m going to admit to hearing them through a blog post of Maggie Steifvater’s which is where I’ve found a number of bands who end up on my “favorites” list). I planned business meetings around their gigs, I’ve made close friends with people I’ve met at shows. I seriously dig them.
Then I discovered that most of ASF’s members used to be in a punk band called Shouting Myke. That Shouting Myke was actually playing live when I was living in Oxford and I didn’t know about it, will haunt me until I’m old(er) and grey. But I’m not sure I would have appreciated them at that point, anyhow.
I ordered an old, dusty, used copy of the Shouting Myke CD from the UK. And I laughed because they sounded SO different from ASF. But then I listened again. And again. And, well, again. And then I put almost every song on the CD on my TGW playlist.
Now one thing about me and music….I HATE screaming. I mean, hate it. And this CD has screaming and it makes me cringe. BUT….the music and the lyrics and the lost “why doesn’t anyone love me-ess” and the “where do I fit in-ness” of this album just nailed so much of Gordie’s (and honestly Kevin’s and probably Sarah’s) angst that I had to get over it and just deal. These Gentle Wounds was better for that and if you can handle a little punk screaming, then check them out and then listen to the magnificence of A Silent Film. You can thank me later.
*I recieved this book from Lady Reader's Bookstuff fo review purposes which does not in the slightest affect my honest review of the book*
Where do I even begin with this book? How do I start telling you the numerous ways this book touched me? How do I even begin to try and explain when you haven't read it yet?
I think the best way to describe this is as a rich meal. These Gentle Wounds had all of the different types of foods that make you remember why you live to eat. The meat is delicate, and tender. The baked potatoe is drowned in butter, spices, and crispness on the outside. The wine (not that I've had any) is exquisite, it's scents permeating your nostrils the way only the high quality kind will. The bread is light, airy, and still warm from the oven. I hope you get the picture.
The point is that this meal is something you wouldn't trade for the world because of all of its phenomenal qualities, just like this book. One of my highest praises, and I'm sure anybody else's if they have read These Gentle Wounds are the highly developed characters. Gordie, Sarah, Kevin, Jim, even the more minor ones have the quality that all authors strive for. It goes beyond being relatable, because what takes talent is making characters seem real when they're situations are extremely rare.
Gordie could be very standoffish, and off putting if he wasn't written well. In fact, that's whfat he thinks he appears as to the people around him. Instead, readers were given an inside look into his head. You're probably sitting there thinking, "That's what first person is supposed to do Sofia. Didn't you go through 3rd grade?" Like I said before about this story, you have to read it to understand. Gordie has PTSD because his mother did something unspeakable five years before. He wakes up soaked with sweat frequently, he goes off on 'spins' where he has vivid flashbacks and time escapes him. All he can feel is pressure from what happened to him. I could have ended up saying, "Okay....so what?" almost the entire book because of how bizarre the situation was. Instead, it was as if his character's hands reached out a touched my heart on the most incline way possible.
Kevin, Gordie's half-brother, took the brunt of his step-fathers anger, which I am pretty sure you can interpret. It would almost make more sense if Kevin were the one with PTSD because of what Gordie's father did to him. Instead, we learn that Kevin is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to Gordie's protection and safety. He was sort of like Gordie's watch dog. If Helene Dunbar reads this review, she will probably be rolling her eyes and saying, "This review is crazy, first she compares my writing to food, and now one of my main characters to a watchdog?" Let me just explain, Kevin is loyal, Kevin is protective, and he would never let anything happen to his brother. At a young age, he had to deal with his step-father's abuse, seeing his biological father on a few occasions, and all of that transitioned into him becoming the sole-caretaker, and shrink, for his little brother. Kevin is basically Gordie's anchor in life, and you know that he would kill to keep Gordie safe.
Sarah is an interesting character. She's a photographer, ex-bad girl, sister to golden-boy hockey player, Luke Miller, and one of the most understanding characters I have ever met. She becomes Gordie's love interest in this story, and does more than you could ever imagine for him. To Gordie, Sarah isn't just some girl, she becomes his second anchor, and the only person outside of his brother that he can confide in. By herself, I don't think I would like Sarah that much, but through Gordie's eyes, I see what a magnificent person she is, and what it feels like to be in love. She listens wholly without judgement, she adds humor, a ray of sunshine, and proof that Gordie can love and be loved.
It's amazing how well Helene Dunbar captures the act of falling in love, while the two of them are still teenagers. The reason that sentence is written so poorly is because I was trying to avoid the words ''teenage love" because their relationship is not just another flash in the pan. However, the sensations of falling in love when you are a teenager are there because of how Gordie experiences everything for the first time with new eyes. Their love is pure. There is a scene where it seems as if Kevin is about to beat Sarah up because he's afraid she will hurt Gordie. Sarah responds with a full arsenal of defenses to her love and admiration for Gordie. This might seem like nothing, but to Gordie, who is having doubts because of what happens at the story in that time, what she says means everything.
On one of my many-category reviews, I have 'originality' as a category, and frankly, I don't know how this story could be more original. It's a tale of tough issues, grief, and sadness, but it also remains hopeful, and is about finding love, who you are, and how to face your fears. This one book will move mountains more than a thousand books in another genre.
The mental aspect of Gordie is something I have never read about before. Everyone talks about being broken after something tough and having to put yourself back together again, but never what it's like to be broken inside your head. It's something that's incomprehensible to others, as the beginning of the synopsis says, but the readers are given a unique window to see what it's like.
There is a lot more I can say, but it can't be put into words -unless they're about dogs or food- the feelings that were prodded and poked with this novel. My last plugin for all of you is that you have to buy this book when it hits shelves on the 8th of May. I normally am very conservative with my money, but you can bet on the day These Gentle Wounds comes out, I will be the first in line to get my own copy.