A book that is 18 years in the writing deserves to be read. So even though I set it aside after reading about 20 pages, I came back to J. Morris Lavallee’s Cracks in the Wall a couple of weeks later. And I’m so glad I did.
Morris, who lives in Brunswick, is an interesting guy, a disable veteran, a rock band musician, and a writer. State Representative Kerri Bickford called him to my attention, insisting that I get a copy of his book, read it, and get to know Morris. Here’s how he describes himself in the book’s introduction:
“J. Morris Lavallee is a student of human behavior, always searching for the answers to life’s conditions. He is a father of three, a divorcee, a veteran, a machinist, a fabricator and a musician.”
In a special author’s note, Morris dedicates the book to his three children, four ex-wives, family and friends.
Friend Gary Babine chimed in with a special opening note: “Morris and I have been friends for about 20 years. For about 15 of those years, every once in a while he would say he was writing a book. I never thought he would finish it. In 2010 during the winter he found himself homeless. He decided to lock himself in a friend’s heated garage and finish the book. One day he handed me part of the first draft and said, “Read the first page.” Eight pages later I realized the book had sucked me in on the first page. The finished product has more twists and turns than a young break-dancer. Don’t miss this one. Thank you Morris.”
Morris acknowledges that, “I started it eighteen years ago while I was hospitalized for post traumatic stress disorder, doing the thorazine shuffle in the psychiatric ward of the V.A. hospital in Togus, Maine. When my head started to clear from all the meds, I would listen to the other vets’ stories about the difficulties in life they had, and how it affected their lives and the lives of everyone else in their path.”
From his own experiences and those stories from other veterans, Morris created this work of fiction. The principle character, Peter Davies, a Viet Nam veteran, is carted off to a psychiatric hospital after standing in front of the Vietnam War Memorial for 24-hours, talking to himself.
Throughout the story, Davies spills his guts to his doctor, culminating in an ending that may surprise you.
The book could have used a good editor. There are many printing and grammatical mistakes, missing words, and other errors. And at 439 pages, it requires a significant time commitment.
It will be worth every minute. When I told a good friend, a Viet Nam veteran who suffers from PTSD, about the book and offered it to him to read, he said he’d just had two really difficult weeks and avoided anything that reminded him of his own terrible experiences in that war. That was sobering.
For the rest of us, this is a very compelling read. I found myself pausing often, wondering how much of the story was Morris’s own. I found the answer in an interesting interview with Morris by Tom Atwell, published in the Portland Press Herald on August 22, 2010.
There is some humor here, a lot of good dialogue, some tears, and valuable insight into the lives of those who returned from Viet Nam with wounds that couldn’t be seen and never were healed. For them, you should read this.
Get the Book
Online from Amazon, for Kindle, for $2.99.
'Cracks In the Wall' is available at the following stores:
Warming's Market, 294 Main Street, Brunswick, Maine. They are open 8-8 Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday.
Longfellow Books, One Monument Way (in Monument Square), Portland, Maine.
Maine Coast Book Shop & Cafe, 158 Main Street, Damariscotta, Maine 04543. A book reading is planned for a future date in this location.
Starbucks in Topsham (11 Winners Circle, next to the Shop & Save in the Topsham Fair Mall) - a book sale by the author, table to be set up in the lobby. Date to be announced.
Participation in a "meet the local authors" table at Harpswell Festival on July 29th.
Morris also has a separate Facebook page for 'Cracks in the wall' entitled Cracks in the Wall.