Intersection Column | Finding Truth in the Shadows of History
by Janyre Tromp
When I was in college, Dr. Tom Jones, my U.S. history professor, assigned us the homework of talking to a relative about WWII and/or the Great Depression. I took the opportunity to visit two of my favorite people in the world—my grandparents—who were a short two-hour drive away.
My grandfather, who was a liaison pilot in the European theater, didn’t speak much of the war when my mother was small. But for whatever reason, sitting on the front porch with their granddaughter, Grandma and Bobpa told their stories over glasses of cold lemonade. For months afterward, I called my grandma and asked her questions about her growing up and married life.
Those moments are beyond precious to me and not only lit my passion for history, but ultimately launched my debut novel, Shadows in the Mind’s Eye.
Like many other stories, this one began as a question: Despite having been shot down over Germany, despite the fact that seven out of ten liaison pilots did not return alive, and despite my grandfather’s struggles with war memories, my grandparents’ marriage was enviably strong. How does a marriage survive the normal ups and downs of life let alone the devastation of war?
Though I have notebooks full of my grandparents’ stories, I’m heartbroken that it didn’t occur to me to ask that question before they passed. Perhaps if I had been able to ask them, Sam and Annie, the couple in my debut, would never have been born in my imagination. And that makes me almost as sad.
Of course, Sam and Annie have a different set of issues than my grandparents. The largest is that Sam’s battle fatigue (now known as PTSD) is significantly worse than my grandfather’s ever was. Since I didn’t want anyone to assume this story with Hitchcockian twists was my grandparents’ biography, I needed a different small town than Syracuse, Indiana, where my mom grew up.
I was brainstorming with one of my good friends, Sarah (Hughes) De Mey, when she told me about her family in the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas. My curiosity was piqued.
Even better? Sarah’s family had put together an entire book of stories and memories. Be still my beating historical novelist’s heart!
As any good historian, I jumped at the opportunity to read an original source that few others had access to. It was in the pages of the Hughes family lore that I found Hot Springs, Arkansas, the location of Shadows in the Mind’s Eye.
While Hot Springs shares a quirky similarity to Syracuse—both locations were a haven for mobsters—Hot Springs was also a hotbed of illegal gambling. It was, in fact, the largest illegal gambling site in the nation. The mob activity, gambling and all the things that went with it were sanctioned by the mayor down through all of the local politicians and police force . . . until the veterans returned from WWII and challenged the status quo with the GI Revolt.
When I read about the Marines challenging the mayor and his cronies, my brain hummed with ideas. Anyone who knows about books knows that stories thrive on conflict, transition and turning points. I had found the ideal place and time to challenge my already struggling couple.
I was well on my way . . . kind of.
While I had the high-tension points, I found myself back at my original question: How does a marriage survive normal life let alone all this chaos? Ultimately, I wanted Shadows in the Mind’s Eye to be about Sam and Annie finding hope and enduring love.
Enter Sarah again with the stories of her Great-Grandmother Dovie. I immediately gravitated toward this real historical woman who took on a host of stepchildren with quiet wisdom and an open heart. While her story is different than the Dovie May in my book, Sarah’s great-grandmother became the bones of a character able to speak wise words that would point the way. . . so that Sam could be not healed, but healing.
As someone who’s struggled with PTSD, I know there is no magic wand that makes the pain, fear and nightmares go away. But I hope that Sam and Annie’s story not only entertains but tells truth that reveals beauty . . . even if it isn’t pretty.
About the Author
Janyre Tromp is a historical novelist who loves spinning historical tales with a healthy dose of intrigue. She’s also a book editor and published children’s book author, and lives in Michigan with her family, and menagerie of pets. You can find her anywhere on social media and download a free novella from www.JanyreTromp.com.
About the Book
Charlotte Anne Mattas longs to turn back the clock. The husband who's come back to their family farm after the war is very different from the protector Annie remembers. Now that her husband Sam claims to have seen men on the mountain, Annie isn't the only one questioning his sanity and her safety. Is he really seeing what he says, or is his war-tortured mind conjuring ghosts?
Did You Know?
The Bible remains the number one bestselling book of all time with an estimated five to seven billion copies sold. In 2016, 92% of Americans owned at least one Bible. It has been translated into more than 2,100 languages out of 6,500 languages spoken around the world. Yet Bible literacy and study have declined in the past decade.
Of all denominations, only Roman Catholics scored above 50% on a basic Bible literacy test (pew forum). Although half of Americans believe the Bible contains the key to a more meaningful life, less people are reading it regularly. 29% of Americans never read the Bible, while 50% read it at least four to five times a year (Barnagroup.org).
Benefits of group Bible studies include making strong connections, building community, creating accountability that fosters positive change, finding acceptance and unconditional love and developing a stronger relationship with God.
Bible studies, like Growing a Mother’s Heart, help build unity among readers through humorous anecdotes and practical tips that moms can easily apply. So reading about Jesus’ sleepless night in prayer before His death and a mom’s interrupted sleep can lead to Scriptures related to rest and make the Bible relevant.
Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore
“When I research a specific topic, I enjoy shopping in a bookstore so I can peruse the vast selection of books on that topic. I can compare the books and determine which one would be best for my needs.”
-Susan Neal, RN, MBA, MHS, 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates