Compelling. Out of the ordinary. Poignant. Entertaining. Complex. Those are just some of the words which come to mind when I think about Sharon Cullars’ A Battle Raging. As a teacher myself, I could totally identify with the heroine, Maya Temple (seriously, that’s her name), who had to put up with a very difficult, surly art student in the form of the hero, Zachary Yarborough. Zach, a former marine, wasn’t the kind of hero found in the typical romance story because he had to contend with two major obstacles which were a source of much internal and external conflict: he was a paraplegic and he suffered from PTSD. He also had to endure his weekly group therapy sessions, which were led by the very psychiatrist who recommended he take the art classes.
Yet, inexplicably, Maya and Zach are drawn to each other. Both have battles raging within and without, and they needed each other to heal. Ms. Cullars cleverly illustrated the emerging romance between the unlikely pair and showed how a wheelchair-bound man, whose spinal injuries were incomplete, could still have a satisfying physical relationship. Even the supporting cast of characters was layered, or three-dimensional, with their own battles raging within them. The right amount of tension and suspense was peppered here and there throughout the story. And the climax was explosive, both literally and metaphorically. Indeed, the conclusion was satisfactory. But it would be remiss of me to fail to mention some of the issues raised in this story: love and family relationships, war and its effects, heroism, attitude towards power and authority, physical and mental well-being, art, nature and beauty, death, and so much more.
One could tell Ms. Cullars expended much time and effort on researching the various scenes which were depicted in this wonderfully crafted story. The ugly reality of PTSD, the way in which group therapy sessions are conducted, the intricacies of teaching a group of adult learners, the terms and explanations used when facilitating an art class, and the methods used for creating some fantastic meals as a tribute to a loving mother (check out the recipes at the back of the book), were so realistically portrayed, I wondered if Ms. Cullars was also a psychiatrist, an artist, a teacher, or a chef. And though I’ve never been to Seattle, she gave me a glimpse of its beauty through the eyes of the hero and heroine. What’s more, this story was inundated with a wide range of sensory images: tactile, gustatory, visual, kinesthetic, aural, and olfactory, which added to its appeal.
Already, I’ve added some of this author’s other works to my TBR list, and without a shadow of a doubt, I’ll be re-reading A Battle Raging in the not-too-distant future.
-Reviewed by Roxy