Baker Publishing Group|September 1, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-8007-2121-3
There are people in this world we pass right by without giving a second thought. They are almost invisible. Yet some of them have amazing stories to tell, if we’d only take the time to listen. Aaron Miller was an old, worn-out Vietnam vet, a handyman in a trailer park. Forty years prior, he saved the lives of three young men in the field only to come home from the war and lose everything. But God is a master at finding and redeeming the lost things of life. Aaron is about to be found. And the one who finds him just might find the love of his life as well. Expert storyteller Dan Walsh pens a new tale filled with the things his fans have come to love – forgiveness, redemption, love, and that certain bittersweet quality that few authors ever truly master. Fans old and new will find themselves drawn into this latest story about how God cares for everyone.
Aaron Miller worked as a handyman in Bentleys Trailer Park and Campground and lived in a storage shed on the property for $150 per month. The shed wasn’t much and only had a cot for a bed making for some uncomfortable and sleepless nights.
Sue Kendall managed the park and on this particular morning she woke Aaron a bit early to tell him he was needed immediately as a guest from the park was leaving and needed his LP tank filled up. Aaron arose from his bed, picked up his walkie-talkies, closed his Bible, then went back to the workbench and unplugged the battery chargers for his tools. He turned his coffee pot off, collected his tools, and headed out the door. Just ten steps outside his door sat his main means of transportation – a beat-up golf cart he parked under a palmetto palm to keep it cool. As he drove to the filling station he perused his clipboard for the list of jobs to be completed that day: take down Halloween decorations, which he was sick of looking at and sort out and set up all the Christmas decorations. To Aaron, it seemed much too early to be putting up Christmas decorations in Florida. If they lived north where the weather was cold, he could understand it better.
Just as Aaron was finishing filling the propane tank his walkie-talkie went off. Sue from the office was telling him to get over to site 31 as there was a lot of yelling and screaming going on inside the trailer and other patrons were threatening to call 911. She asked Aaron if he could get over there immediately as she didn’t want to scare off all the temps in the park as it made them think the park was full of low lifes. Aaron heard Sue’s cousin, Bobby in the background say: “That’s all we got in here.” Aaron had been called to this same site before where a woman named, Heather and her boyfriend, Ryan stayed. Heather had a red mark across her face but she’d told Aaron she’d tripped over a big oak root but Aaron didn’t believe her as she appeared nervous. Aaron detested men who hit women and thought they were cowards. Heather didn’t appear to be more than sixteen or seventeen. Ryan looked to be around twenty-years-of-age and thought, Heather too young to be shacked up with him. Ryan had long hair, was tall, and wore baggy jeans pulled halfway down to his knees.
As Aaron approached the site, he heard a loud noise, looked ahead and saw Heather’s boyfriend coming out of the trailer, slamming the door behind him, and getting into a blue souped-up Honda Civic. He revved up the engine, put it in gear, and tore off heading in Aaron’s direction. Aaron walked up to the open door of the trailer and heard the girl crying. He called out “anybody there?” The girl cried softer and Aaron stepped inside and saw, Heather lying in a corner by the couch, balled up into the fetal position. He asked her if she was okay and when she lifted her head, her left eye was almost swollen shut. He asked: “He hit you, didn’t he?” She shook her head “no”. He told her to get up and sit on the couch and he’d get her some ice for her eye. When he returned from the little kitchen, Aaron commented: “You’re not going to tell me you tripped over a root.” She smiled and shook her head. Aaron told Heather he was going to call the police but she begged him not too saying it would only make things worse. As they conversed, Aaron found out she’d run away at age fifteen, was now seventeen but would soon turn eighteen, and that she hadn’t spoken with her parents in over a year, they didn’t get along. She said they lived in Georgia, north of Atlanta. Aaron offered to call her parents for her but she said no. He asked if she had anywhere to go before, Ryan came back. Again, Heather said no, but that she’d be okay as she didn’t think he’d be back for a while. She told Aaron not to worry that she could take care of herself, but Aaron noticed she’d made that statement without even a hint of confidence. Aaron didn’t feel right leaving her there all alone but told her he was going to leave but would be keeping his eye on the place all day. If he saw, Ryan’s car coming back, then he’d be back. Heather was worried and said she didn’t want any trouble and Aaron reassured her he didn’t either and would just stay outside and listen. He told Heather if he heard any yelling, or if she thought he was going to hit her again to just yell out his name and he’d come in. Before leaving, Aaron asked Heather to look up at him and when she did he told her: “I’m not going to allow him to hurt you again. You have my word on that.”
After leaving, Heather, Aaron stopped by the office to fill Sue in. Sue said she had a bad feeling about, Ryan when they first came there. She gave Aaron a job at site 28 just across from Heather’s trailer replacing rotting boards on the wooden handicap ramp so he’d be close in case there was trouble again.
Billy Ames lived at site 28, a Vietnam vet who returned from the war as a double amputee. Aaron noticed such sadness in his eyes, “not the normal kind, like you get from a bad day…the kind of sadness that stacks up over many years.” Billy seemed to mask it mostly by talking too much. Billy had a sad plan to pull off but now that Aaron had arrived it’d have to wait until he was done. (Beware folks, this is a sad part.)
Aaron had a wife, Betty and two children, Karen and Steven who would be in their forties now. He didn’t even know what they looked like now as he hadn’t seen them since 1992, and then only from a distance. He’d sent birthday cards for a few years after he and Betty divorced, but never heard back anything from any of them so he gave up. Aaron had been homeless and when he cleaned up in 1987 and got off the streets, he tried to reconnect but Betty made it crystal clear the kids would be better off if he just left them alone, for good. They had a new life with a new Dad, a big house, nice cars and college funds. Nothing like what he had put them through when he returned from the war.
Dave Russo was a wire editor for the local newspaper. He was writing a book in his spare time about the heroes of Vietnam, in honor of his father, who died when Dave was only three. He found the most difficult part about writing the book as all the personal stuff, like seeing his mother cry every Christmas and every anniversary. This went on well into his teens. The book wasn’t even about Dave’s father, Joey Russo, it was a book about some of the heroes of Vietnam whose stories could be told, and he would dedicate the book to his father’s memory. Anything Dave did know about his Dad came from his mother, Angelina but he was concerned this project was becoming too hard on her. Dave lived in her condo and her seeing the materials about the war spread out on the kitchen table while he worked, upset her.
Dave was now in Houston, Texas to interview John Lansing who received a Silver Star for defending a Huey that crash-landed, knocked the pilot out, and he kept the Viet Cong at bay until help arrived. John Lansing was now an oil executive. John received his medal during his first tour in 1967, then signed up for a second tour. Dave arrived at the Lansing home in an upscale neighbourhood called “Bent Oaks.” After introductions and John’s insistence that Dave called him John they got down to business and John didn’t waste any time. All Dave’s questions were based on assumption that he was there to interview John for winning the Silver Star in 1967. He got the impression John had other plans for their time together. Dave began with: “It was your first tour where you got the Silver Star, right?” John nodded. “My first tour was between 1966 and 1967. But really, Dave, you don’t want to interview me about that. It’s a decent enough story, but I’ve got one you need to hear that’s way better. It happened my second tour. The fellow I’m talking about did way more heroic things than me. Actually, I wouldn’t be alive now if it weren’t for him. Me or my two friends. He saved our lives during this one firefight in 1969. Almost got killed himself doing it.” Dave asked: “So, who is this guy? What’s his name?” John responded: “His name is ???” (sorry people, my review, for the most part ends here).
I was already so into this book just by reading the little bit of detail I’ve provided here from the beginning in my review so far, but from here on out, I found my emotions changing more and more, chapter-by-chapter. I was happy, excited, exuberant, and elated. Then I began to shed a few happy tears, those happy tears turned into a river of uncontrollable water and by the end I was literally sobbing. I haven’t read a book that has affected me as deeply and emotionally as The Reunion in a long, long time. I didn’t want this book to end and sincerely hope that Mr. Walsh is considering a sequel. The Reunion will most definitely become part of my permanent library and I’ll be purchasing many extra copies to give out as Christmas gifts this year.
The Reunion was a beautiful, emotionally charged story that affected this reader very deeply. It delves into the humanity of people and the human heart and how deeply we can feel and show true appreciation.
"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group".
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group".