For Mary Alice Monroe, supporting the military, and the families who stand behind them, is a cause close to her heart. Her son, Zachary, is a retired Marine. And her husband’s great grandfather was Rear Admiral Spencer S. Wood, a United States Navy officer who served our country from 1882-1921.
So it’s no surprise that Monroe’s inspiration for her new novel, A Lowcountry Christmas, came directly from her encounters and experience supporting military service members. She tapped into the feeling she had as a mother with a deployed son in the Marine Corps, and while doing research for her book series at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, Florida, Monroe had the opportunity to do volunteer work with the Wounded Warrior Project, where she met a veteran who left an impression on her.
“It was unexpected but fateful because I worked with several veterans suffering from PTSD,” Monroe shared. “One veteran, in particular, had a service dog, and he explained to me how important his dog was to him. He said, ‘I love my wife. But I need my dog.’ It was inspiring!”
Monroe shared with NMFA that she hopes her novel will educate people about the effects of PTSD and it’s effects on the entire famly, not just the service member.
“It is a journey. One that requires love, patience, understanding and support,” she said.
A Lowcountry Christmas is the story of a wounded warrior, Taylor McClellan, who returns home for Christmas. It’s his first visit since being injured in Afghanistan. His external wounds have healed, but his mother quickly realizes that something is different about her son. The Taylor she knew had not come home. Her son called himself ‘damaged goods.’
Monroe tells the family’s story through multiple perspectives—Taylor’s, his younger brother’s, and their mother’s—so the reader can see how PTSD affects every family member. Through the miraculous donation of a service dog, the family is led on a healing journey to discover the true spirit of Christmas.
Since writing this novel, Monroe says she’s had some unexpected memorable moments. One in particular was a phone call from her son, to whom A LowCountry Christmas is dedicated.
“It was an emotional and heartwarming phone conversation,” she recalled. “And I think it’s the first time he’s actually read one of my novels!”
But another memorable moment came during a book tour she was on with other military mothers and wives. Monroe said she heard stories from wives of Vietnam War veterans, whose husbands returned with PTSD.
“Back then, they didn’t call PTSD,” she said. “I felt such camaraderie with all these women–strangers–yet we were our own group of comrades, bound together by our connection to the military as mothers or wives.”
It was those connections that had Monroe thinking about a scene from A Lowcountry Christmas where the mother, Jenny, reflects on her son’s deployment and says, ‘I did what mothers of soldiers have done for centuries. I prayed. … I clung to my faith, believing my prayers were heard. What else could I do when I felt so helpless?’
A Lowcountry Christmas is a timeless novel truly built upon a foundation of hope, forgiveness, rebirth, and love, and is the 5th installment in Monroe’s nationally bestselling Lowcountry Series.
Posted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager