Friday, October 5, 2018

Steven Manchester's Award-Winning Novel - Three Shoeboxes - Another Family-Oriented Novel!

Three Shoeboxes Takes the Grand Prize at the 2018 New York Book Festival!

Steven Manchester must have known his latest book was going to be a sensation, when he provided a prequel for his readers...Check out not only that free prequel, but my review ... I will add, though, that some of that will be duplicated in the later novel, but that helps readers once again get into the entire store.  If you haven't yet read the book, I recommend you go directly to the fantastic novel!

“How can someone take something from you when it lives in your heart?”
 – Dr. Faust Fiore

The ambiance was perfect, the service reached beyond doting, yet neither of these could compare to the meal. The filet mignon swimming in bĂ©arnaise sauce melted like ice cream in July. 

“Surprised?” he asked, grabbing for her hand. 
“I actually am this time,” she admitted. After so many failed attempts at keeping a secret, she was impressed her husband hadn’t leaked a word—especially to the kids, she thought. “Thank you.” 
A pink hue spread evenly across his boyish face. “You’re welcome.” 
Jen studied her husband, wondering, How did I ever get so lucky? Beyond his dark hair and penetrating eyes, he was the definition of a devoted husband and father who considered spending time with his three children a favorite pastime. And he’d worked hard for years, finally reaching a point in his life—at thirty-eight—when he could start breathing easier. 
“How’s work?” she asked. 
“Ross just assigned us a pretty big project,” he said and stopped. “But I don’t want to talk about work tonight.” 
What about talking about me returning to work then? she asked in her head. “The kids then?” she teased. 
“Nope,” he said. “I couldn’t love them any more than I do, but even they can survive without our attention for the next few hours.” 
She was taken aback. With all our day-to-day responsibilities, I can’t remember the last time we shared a night like this, she thought, her chest feeling warm. They’d just ordered coffee and dessert when the pianist stopped playing and made an announcement. 
“I’d like to ask everyone to join me in wishing Mr. and Mrs. Mac Anderson a happy anniversary. Fifteen years ago today, they took each other as man and wife, and we’re honored to have them celebrating with us tonight.” There was a buzz of polite applause. 

Stunned, Jen looked across the table to catch the blush of a little boy paint her considerate husband’s face again. Before she could say a word, the pianist broke into his next song—their wedding song. Her chest filled with emotion, causing her eyes to swell. 
“Thank you, Mac,” she whispered past the lump in her throat. “I…” 
He leaned across the table and grabbed her hand, interrupting her. “Happy anniversary, babe,” he said. For whatever reason, she expected him to reach into his pocket and pull out his annual token of love. He didn’t, so she grabbed the wrapped present from the empty chair beside her and handed it over to him.

“This gift is the one thing that means more to me than anything else in the whole world,” she told him, her eyes swelling more. While the pianist filled the room with a nostalgic melody, Mac tore through the wrapping. In one magical moment, he reached the prize. It was a framed photo of them and the kids—Jillian, Bella and Brady.
“Our family,” he gasped. Before he could react any further, she hurried over to kiss him. “God, do I love you,” he said. 
“And I love you too,” she said, hugging him tight and ignoring a room full of stares. “So, I get another fifteen years then?” he asked. She never answered. Their shared embrace said it all. After a few moments, he pushed her away to look into her eyes. “You’re not going to ask me where your present is?” he asked, smiling. 
She half-shrugged. “I hadn’t thought about it,” she fibbed. 
He laughed. “I’ll give it to you at home. It was too big to bring here.” 
“Oh, I bet it was,” she said, giggling. He laughed again, quickly raising his hand to call for the check. 
⧝ As they stepped out of the restaurant, Mac stopped short on the sidewalk and turned to face her. “Hey,” he whispered. 
“Yeah?” she said, stepping into his arms. 
“I really love you, you know.” 
“I know.” 
“Do you?” he asked. Her lips parted to reply when he pulled her even closer. “I mean it,” he said. “I love you, Jen.” 
She felt overwhelmed by this genuine display of affection. She knew this proclamation went far beyond the three words they exchanged each day—a nice little habit they’d established from the beginning. This was intended as a confirmation of all they were—and will be forever. It was as though they were young again and he’d professed his love for the first time—sincere and unashamed. 
She grabbed his face in both her hands and considered all they’d been through together. They began as any first love—filled with innocence and thrills—before life eventually ushered in reality. Back then, our romance was so intense, burning as brightly as the sun, she thought, and twenty-four hours in a day wasn’t nearly enough time to be together. “I know,” she told him, “and I love you more today than ever before, more than I have the words to describe.” A ball of raw emotion choked her. 
He kissed her long and hard. “I do,” he said. 
“What?” she asked. “I still do,” he repeated with a smile. “After fifteen years, I promise to take you as my wife in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health—all of it. I want you, no, I need you as my wife for the next fifteen years and the rest of my life after that.” 
She kissed him back, matching his fervent passion for her. “I still do, too,” she vowed, feeling like she was being reborn. When they reached the car, she turned to him. “There’s no way you’re ever going to top this one,” she said, grinning. It was the best memory she’d ever been given. “So, what’s the big gift waiting for me at home?” 
He winked. “The consummation,” he said. 
⧝ After gazing at his beautiful wife, Mac looked up and slammed on the brakes. The car in front of them had stopped short. “Jackass!” he barked, his heart racing. 
Jen leaned forward in the passenger seat. “I think there’s been an accident,” she said. 
Once the rubbernecker in front of them had inched past the scene—never even considering to stop—Mac slowed to a crawl and surveyed the scene. Two cars had been involved in the wreck. “It looks like it just happened,” he told Jen. 
She nodded. “I hope everyone’s all right.” The windshield of one of the cars had been shattered, half of it now covered in crimson red. That’s a lot of blood, he thought, his own blood turning cold. Should I stop? Almost involuntarily, he pulled off to the side of the road. “They need help,” he said to his worried wife. And someone really needs to help them, he thought, trying to steel himself to be that someone. His body’s fight or flight response, however, pled for him to drive on and avoid the gruesome scene. 
As Mac swung open the driver’s side door and took one step out of the car, a siren wailed in the distance. Leaning to his right, he peered into the rear-view mirror. Flashing red and blue lights strobed into the dark night behind them. “The cavalry’s arrived,” he said aloud, more for himself than for Jen. 
“Thank God,” she said, nodding. “I just hope no one’s hurt bad.” As the siren got louder and the flashing lights brighter, Mac glanced at the blood on the windshield one last time. Someone’s definitely hurt, he thought. There’s nothing worse than a friggin’ car accident. 
Jen sat at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper, her oversized bouquet of flowers sitting before her in a crystal vase. 
Mac entered the room, grunting and pounding on his chest like a silverback gorilla. “Be honest,” he said, “last night was amazing, wasn’t it?”
Jen dropped the paper and kissed him. “You were an animal, babe. It was the most incredible eight minutes of my life.” 
Mac grabbed for his chest, pretending he’d just been wounded. Jen laughed. Goofball. His eyes drifted off for a moment. “Eight minutes?” he muttered. “I didn’t realize it lasted that long.” He shrugged. “That’s not bad after fifteen years, right?” 
Laughing, Jen handed him a cup of coffee. “You know I’m teasing,” she whispered, kissing him again. “Last night was amazing. You were very sweet for putting so much thought into it.” She gazed at him. “And I’m holding you to that promise.” 
“Ditto,” he said. 
“And I really love my treasure box.” 
Mac smiled. “And I love the framed photo, Jen.” 

Three Shoeboxes

By Steven Manchester

In an interview about Manchester's latest book, he noted that he wanted to write a story about PTSD, that occurred outside the military setting. I applaud Steven for that decision. When trauma occurs in an individual's life, it is only that individual who can realize it. And sometimes even that individual does not understand what is happening...

Mac and Jen were very much in love, even after 15 years and the 3 children who had been added to their marriage were all special to Mac, especially. He spent time with his kids, and made sure to teach and answer questions that inevitably arose.

So, when Mac started to become short-tempered and listless, not being able to maintain attention, even on the job, he recognized the problem and decided to see his doctor. It had started with an inability to breathe and he wondered whether he was having a heart attack. Adrenaline raced and his extremities tingled. Was he dying?

But the attacks kept coming... And right in the middle of his angst about his own life, Jen started talking about going back to work, as they had always planned when all the children were in school. Now, Mac felt nothing but dread of Jen not being home...and available...

Finally he told Jen, but decided to go alone to the ER...only to hear medical staff chatting about another one coming in with chest pains which were bound to be anxiety attacks... Learning it was probably stress, he lied when he told the doctor that he had somebody to talk to...not even realizing he meant a professional... And actually he thought it was physical--how could it not be?

The sad part of stress-related diseases is that many times they result in physical symptoms and are not properly diagnosed as soon as possible. Mac was trying to deal with his sporadic spells of not being able to breathe. But in trying to deal with it on his own, those around him were receiving the brunt of his deteriorating moods and outbursts...

Three Shoeboxes is not an easy book to read. But it is written so closely in factual reality for those suffering from some form of PTSD, that it is a welcome look at a family drama situation often occurring, but not completely understood in America. As a victim of job burnout, which resulted in clinical depression, I was impressed with the life-like situations provided by Manchester. Not everybody knows, as I did, what has happened to them. But that knowing did nothing to prepare me for the chemical changes that resulted for me, and which are still with me after over 15 years. Please take the time to read this book; it may someday help you through adjusting to the same or a similar situation like Mac experienced.

Not understanding the reason for the book's title until the very end made this a much more poignant story. The inability to deal with real life sometimes brings about a totally different family dynamic. One that the victim of Stress or PTSD or Clinical Depression, whatever is diagnosed, cannot easily gain control of... The whole family suffers and some do not make it through the results of the illness. But Mac would not give up in Three Shoeboxes and his fight back is both heartwarming and an inspiration to those who may one day need to remember this one book they once read... Any reader interested in Family Drama - this is a must-read...


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