Cape Breton is the setting for the debut novel of a writer from the Southwest Acadian shore area of Nova Scotia and published by CBU Press.
Charting the Darkness chronicles the fictional life of an emotionally damaged Viet Nam war veteran who inherits a property and an old sailboat on Aspy Bay.
Abandoned for dead by his family while he rotted in a Viet Cong prison camp, American-born Nick Sullivan finds solace in alcohol and flashbacks to war and prison. The death of a nearly forgotten uncle takes Sullivan to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where he had spent many happy adolescent summers. His uncle’s bequest takes Nick by surprise and, in the process of refurbishing an aged sailboat, he too is salvaged.
Sullivan learns that his war was not unique and that there are many other veterans he meets who understand the post-traumatic effects of battle in the Second World War and in Afghanistan.
Author A.C. Geisel hopes the book also stimulates conversation about our war veterans and others such as first responders and the public at large who suffer.
“Speaking of our veterans, we welcome them home with banners and parades, and then what?” Geisel asks.
“I’m not trying to make a political statement or be contentious through the novel, but we send our bravest and best to experience things no human being should ever see and then walk away like everything is alright. It’s not. And it’s not because we turn on the news and hear too often that they are taking their own lives. Doing what we are doing is not enough. I don’t have answers, but maybe by taking about it we will find some.”
The book’s main character, Nick Sullivan, was one of those victims who return home broken and try to anesthetize their pain with liquor or drugs.
“The story chronicles Sullivan’s journey of self-discovery and hope, and it has many bright moments. But there were times when writing that I needed to get into Nick Sullivan’s head. What I saw there was so dark that at times I had to leave the manuscript untouched, sometimes for months. But I had to go back if for no other reason to deliver Sullivan from his private hell. I hope the novel serves as a catalyst for dialogue and awareness.”
A public launch and celebration is planned for Wednesday June 22, 7-9 p.m., at the Yarmouth County Museum and Archives, 22 Collins Street, Yarmouth. Everyone is welcome.