This YA novel centers around Gordie, a 15-year-old boy who survives the heartbreaking trauma of a mentally ill mother willing to sacrifice everything to protect her children–including their lives. Five years after escaping the car his mother drove into the water, containing Gordie and three of his siblings, Gordie still finds himself struggling for air.
As he spins into despair, he clings to the shards of reality, as cutting as they might be. Gordie views his world through the high contrast lens of adolescence – the low of high school bullying and brotherly fights, the high of first love. And it’s made all the more dramatic with Gordie’s certainty that things he is experiencing are Not Normal. Gordie lives under the persistent cloud of post-traumatic stress disorder that makes everything hazy.
The book frequently reads as though he’s still underwater. Gordie is surviving, but he’s only just starting to understand that living is something different. While there’s some resolution, there isn’t a bow to wrap up Gordie’s story. It’s as complete as it can be, while remaining sincere to Gordie and his PTSD.
These Gentle Wounds did not burn itself onto my soul forever immemorial, but it’s simmering in my mind, where teenage me bleeds and bruises with every pain Gordie knows. Present me has some perspective, and I identify more with the adults in Gordie’s life than I do with him. Such is the stress that accompanies the trauma of growing up, I suppose.