My first published book, A Brother for Sorrows, is the fourth in a series of six novels. The first book is titled The Guardian’s Son. The series follows the life of Joe Kaufmann, a child survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp. At age six, he is rescued by an American army surgeon, Major Grayson Pierce, and is brought to Ithaca, New York, to be reared as Grayson’s ward. Grayson’s family–his mother, Nina Cassandra, his older sister, Mildred, his great aunt, Elvie, and his eight-year-old daughter, Irene, live at the Pierce mansion. In this first book, the point of conflict is Joe and Grayson contending with a trio of elderly women who have no room in their hearts for pity or even acknowledgment of this young child’s trauma in the camp. Nor do they believe Grayson as he describes some of the horrific scenes he had witnessed when he and his evacuation hospital had entered Buchenwald after the Nazis had fled on April 15, 1945.
An important theme in Joe’s life is his frustration in interacting with others who are insensitive to his plight. They are unable to relate to his struggle with his memories. They politely listen to his description of starving men, stacks of corpses, and overflowing toilet buckets, and then they ask him to move on with his life. Their disconnect from Joe is predictable, and frankly, human. Who would want to relive those unspeakable atrocities? What Joe is suffering from is what we call today as post-traumatic stress disorder. It has become a valid medical term to legitimize the devastating conflict victims experience after a shocking distressing event. But seventy years ago, all the doctors could call it for World War II veterans was combat fatigue. Today, there are treatments, medication, support groups, and other tools to help those with PTSD.
Unfortunately for Joe, he had none of this. His depression, loneliness, and near-suicide make for an intense, multi-dimensional character. But he accomplishes great things in his life despite his inward battles, which is the hope and optimism in this story.