Author: Neal Powers

Publisher: Bloomington, IN: Universe, c. 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4502-3716-1

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All the action in this sequel to Millie’s Honor takes place between Friday, September 10, 1976 and January 26, 1977. The prologue introduces us to a deeply psychotic character called Byron Donovan (think the chief protagonist in A Clockwork Orange), who is maimed not only mentally and emotionally, but physically as well: “That’s how I got crippled. I was kicking this black kid in the head when Thornton tackled me sideways like. It wasn’t no accident. Knees aren’t supposed to bend like that.”


Powers has the knack of describing a character in a few lines that convey the essence of that individual’s persona. For example, Bud Oswald he describes in the following words: “If it weren’t for the sheriff’s uniform, he could have passed for a college professor. He wore glasses and had a scholarly look about him.” (Middle-aged Gleekville, here we come!) The action comes quick and fast, with the linear progression of events being easy to follow, and many of the chapters being as short as two to three pages.


The emotional depth of the plot lies in the way in which the characters suffering from repercussions of the past adopt their own ways of coping with the challenges of the present. Key among such is the effects of the Vietnam War on the lead character in Letters to Millie, Raymond Thornton. Powers’ concern with and compassion for those afflicted with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), from which Thornton suffers, is of particular relevance bearing in mind the number of armed forces personnel returning from the conflict situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that, although the story is set in the 1970’s, it has a great deal to say about the modern-day psyche. The stresses which affect even those living in relatively small communities are also explored in Letters to Millie, as the small town of Raleigh is rocked by a wave of violent crime. As Raymond Thornton helps Sheriff Bud Oswald, who is himself starting to suffer from night terrors, solve who is behind the devastating crimes, which threaten to unsettle the stability of a closely knit community, the relationships between the different characters are seen as forming a supportive network which helps to retain the dignity and sanity of the individuals involved.


This thought-provoking thriller is relieved by the author’s somewhat macabre sense of humor. When a key baddy gets poisoned, stabbed, shot and left for dead on the rubbish dump, only to be crushed under a bulldozer by his own father, the key question is how many times a guy can die. No doubt Powers has had to develop such a survival skill due to his own somewhat traumatic past. The novelist has real-life knowledge of PTSD, as he himself was diagnosed with the disorder, which he developed as the result of an eleven-year career investigating aircraft accidents for the FAA. Powers explains, “Letters to Millie examines serious topics – drugs, murder, war – but the book is actually a love story that describes the role family and friends play in helping us survive tragedy. My intent is for readers to come away with a renewed sense of hope in the power of community.” Powers achieves his intent very well indeed, and even if you haven’t yet read Millie’s Honor, try to get your hands on this novel – you won’t be disappointed!

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