Night terrors. Any parent who has experienced them firsthand would likely agree the term is an apt description. My oldest son, now ten years old, used to suffer from these episodes when he was a toddler. His panicked shrieks frequently summoned me or my husband to his bedroom, where he would be sitting upright in bed, eyes wide with fear, unable to wake, viewing something nobody else in the room could see. And yet, come morning, he would have no recollection of the event.
Over time—thankfully—he outgrew the severe and vivid nightmares, just as his pediatrician had predicted. The son of a friend, on the other hand, has not been as fortunate. For a reason his parents and doctors are unable to pinpoint, the boy’s night terrors have only worsened, often lasting several hours at a time and requiring his parents to restrain him to prevent self-inflicted injuries.
Perhaps it was my knowledge of their dilemma, in addition to firsthand experience, that heightened my interest in a particular news story two years ago. The report featured a toddler boy who had also suffered from violent, recurrent night terrors, though invariably his alluded to a plane crash—and not just any plane: a Corsair from World War II. Apparently, his knowledge of obscure, verifiable details ultimately convinced his skeptical parents that he’d once been a WWII pilot who perished in battle.
Do I, myself, believe this to be the case? I couldn’t tell you. What I do know is that when my eldest son was a toddler he would sometimes speak of a grandmother who didn’t exist. Sure, maybe we simply misheard him. Or maybe it was just the creative ramblings of a youngster… but what if it was something more?
Taking it a step further, the literary portion of my mind began to wonder: Could a child’s nightmares be linked to the past, perhaps even reveal secrets other people wanted to keep buried?
It was this train of thought that formed half the premise of my latest novel, The Pieces We Keep. And a declassified account of Nazi saboteurs inspired the rest.
Although I had done a great deal of WWII research for my past novels, only through a friend did I learn of a group of German spies who were dropped off by U-Boat on the East Coast of America in 1942. Intrigued, I sought out more details on the topic and what I found was an astounding account involving espionage, tragedy, and romance; deceptive dealings by J. Edgar Hoover; and even a secret military tribunal assembled by FDR. In essence, it was the makings of a Hollywood film and a story I couldn’t resist.
Needless to say, I hope readers feel the same about The Pieces We Keep.
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Two years have done little to ease veterinarian Audra Hughes’s grief over her husband’s untimely death. Eager for a fresh start, Audra plans to leave Portland for a new job in Philadelphia. Her seven-year-old son, Jack, seems apprehensive about flying–but it’s just the beginning of an anxiety that grows to consume him.
As Jack’s fears continue to surface in recurring and violent nightmares, Audra hardly recognizes the introverted boy he has become. Desperate, she traces snippets of information unearthed in Jack’s dreams, leading her to Sean Malloy, a struggling US Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II, and uncover old family secrets that still have the strength to wound–and perhaps, at last, to heal.
Intricate and beautifully written, The Pieces We Keep illuminates those moments when life asks us to reach beyond what we know and embrace what was once unthinkable. Deftly weaving together past and present, herein lies a story that is at once poignant and thought-provoking, and as unpredictable as the human heart.