The novel, Notes from the Other Side of the Mountain – Love Confronts the Wounds of War, by J. Allen Whitt, spans the central years in the life of Gary Reed. This thoughtful young man spends his younger years in New Mexico and Texas, when he falls in love with the beautiful Kristi Preston. Losing Kristi’s affections, he joins the Navy in time to take part in the Vietnam conflict and experiences the horrors and losses of war. Vietnam comes home with him in the form of PTSD. However, he rekindles his romance with Kristi, only to lose her once more. Finally, decades later, Gary returns to New Mexico to reflect on his life there, the embers of his love for Kristi, and the lessons and perspectives life has granted him.
This novel is part coming of age, part romance, and part call to action in the cause of PTSD treatment, but primarily it’s a memoir in the form of a novel. Whitt’s voice is consistent throughout, and particularly strong in Part 4, when the text switches to present tense. It’s in this final phase of the novel that it gains its strength and emotional impact. His narrative depictions of scenic views in New Mexico are inspired, particularly for a first novel, and are testimony to a writer’s eye, ear, and nose for the surrounding world. Balancing crisp dialogue and narrative is an art in itself, and this one is certainly ripe for growth in that regard. Whitt has a talent for surprise and drama in creating his story arc, but there are issues here. Unresolved or unexplained episodes with his school friends in New Mexico—particularly the crumbling of his teen romance with Kristi—create an early disconnect from the story’s overall impact. There are repetitive scenes, layout problems with the book, typos, misspellings, and punctuation errors.
Review by Bob Mustin (June 2019)
Through his vivid narration, we follow Gary Reed as he finds love in high school, then is called to Navy service in Vietnam. Traumatized by the carnage of war, he comes home, hoping to reunite with Kristina Preston and find peace within the serene mountains of New Mexico. Yet Kristy has harrowing secrets as well, and they will face daunting obstacles as they struggle to build a future together and survive unexpected twists of fortune.
ISBN/ASIN: ISBN-10: 0692954252, ISBN-13: 978-0692954256
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Fiction—Romance
Number of Pages: 368