Synopses & Reviews
As a doctor in Vietnam, Lily survived unimaginable terror and loss. Now, safely ensconced in a close-knit Maine town and a seemingly comfortable marriage, she no longer needs to be afraid, but she is: afraid of light, afraid of sudden sounds, afraid of seeing the wide-eyed child of war who haunts her. So Lily is unprepared for the act of betrayal that threatens to take away the one thing she cannot live without: her young son. Plunged into a bitter custody battle, befriended by a man with a heartbreaking secret of his own, Lily must fight-to escape her own memories, to survive an uncertain future, and to protect, above all else, the love between a mother and child.
"Harris's first novel is a moving, if helter-skelter, story of a doctor's attempts to reintegrate into normal life after a shattering tour of duty during the Vietnam War. Picking up in 1978 in bucolic Maine, ten years after the Tet Offensive Lily Townsend endured as a doctor in Vietnam and which still erupts in memories to torment her. Her outwardly staid life with her husband, Ben, the owner of a dry-cleaners, and their four-year-old son, Jaime, is undermined by a litany of panicked flashbacks and the lingering guilt Lily feels over the crackup of her former lover, Ian, a reporter for Reuters, and the disappearance of their friend, Bao-Long. Back stateside, Lily resists treatment for her post-trauma stress, and Ben grows increasingly concerned about his wife, who prefers to leave off the house lights, breaks out in hives and dives under a car when she hears a sudden sharp noise-putting Jaime in harm's way. Ben's affair with a family friend shocks Lily ('You're not really here,' he accuses her), and his aggressive attempts to secure custody of their son isolates her. Harris's story is enormously affecting, although the thick layering of Lily's suffering both overwhelms and diffuses the power of this slender, uneven work." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In this haunting debut novel, Cheryl Drake Harris explores the abiding love between parent and child and the terrifying legacy of trauma and memory.
About the Author
Cheryl Drake Harris lives with her husband in Maine, where she is at work on her second novel, about Elizabeth Siddal, model for and wife of pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, which Dell will publish in 2007.
Reading Group Guide
1. Discuss the storytelling approach used in Lily's Ghost.
What was it like to watch the events in Lily's life unfold from two points in time? Is this narrative approach effective? How does it highlight or hide certain themes?
2. Ghosts reveal themselves in various forms throughout the novel. Discuss the idea of a ghost. What does it symbolize? Besides Lily's ghost, who else has a ghost? What is the overarching connection between these ghosts?
3. Lily's Ghost explores the many levels on which a person can be harmed, physically and emotionally. Lily certainly saw both firsthand while in Vietnam. Which hurts are she confronting in Maine? Which ones seem more destructive?
4. Hives are the physical manifestation of both Lily's war trauma and her conflict with Ben. How does Lily deal with her hives? Toward the end of the novel, Lily becomes more at peace with herself. How does the change in her psychological state affect her physical one?
5. Men play a prominent role in Lily's life. Discuss Lily's relationships with Ian, Ben, and Callahan. How is each relationship different? Does Lily change through her encounters with each of them? How so?
6. What is the significance of memory in the novel? Would it have helped Lily to have lost her painful recollections after the war in order to live a "normal" life? Or are these memories vital in shaping her present…and future?
7. Why does Lily prefer the dark? What is the argument that Ben makes against her "strange" propensity? Do you think he is correct?
8. "It is peaceful down in the furnace room. …Just for a few minutes, I promise myself, Ill sit here. Feel safe." (page 93) What does Lily find so attractive about the cellar? Why are the kitchen and Jaime's room also significant?
9. Children are ever-present in the story. What do Jaime, Nina, Callahans deceased son, and Noel symbolize? What is the importance of the Montagnard children?
10. "I dont fear losing Ben. I fear losing Jaime." (page 102). In the end has Lily lost Jaime? Discuss the issues relating to motherhood in the novel.
11. How does being a caretaker lead one to take better care of oneself? Did having a child enhance Lily's nightmares? Did it help her cope with the traumas of war? Would Lily's war images continue to haunt her even without Jaime?
12. We often read about wartime experiences from a male point of view. Based on Lily's Ghost, how is wartime experience different for a female? Does it offer advantages or disadvantages?
13. In the title, does the word "ghost" have more than one meaning?
Cheryl Drake Harris makes an unforgettable and compelling debut with Lily's Ghost
, a Barnes & Noble DISCOVER selection. Drake Harris' novel explores the abiding love between parent and child as it examines the terrifying legacy of trauma and memory.
Set in a close-knit town in Maine, Drake Harris describes the life of Lily Townsend, a doctor who served in Vietnam and experienced and survived unimaginable terror and loss. Although Lily is safe now, her past has made her afraid of light, sensitive to sudden sounds, and fearful of seeing haunting wartime images. Now she must overcome this past to confront her greatest challenge, following an act of betrayal that threatens to take away the one thing she cannot live without: her young son. Plunged into a bitter custody battle, befriended by a man with a heartbreaking secret of his own, Lily must fight-to escape her own memories, to survive an uncertain future, and to protect, above all else, the love between a mother and child.