We’ve been pretty on the gift-giving part of the holidays, and of course, it’s a part we love. But today’s post reminds us of the real point of the season–peace and goodwill toward our fellow men and women. Read on to discover the inspiration behind Mary Alice Monroe’s A Lowcountry Christmas.
This is a story I’d been wanting to write for years– since my work with the Wounded Warriors at the Dolphin Research Center. I finally found an open window of time this summer–time was of the essence–as in I needed to write the story now. Never had I written a novel so fast, and I admit I surprised myself by how quickly I wrote it. It’s one of those books that flowed directly from my heart and mind through my fingertips to the page, like a divine gift. And now it is my gift to readers this Christmas season.
A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS is the story of a Marine, Taylor McClellan, who returns from war with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and grapples with the effects of his mental health disorder on his financially-strained family in their small shrimping community of McClellanville, SC. The circumstances darken the holiday mood. But, through the miraculous gift of a service dog, Taylor and his family are led on a healing journey to rediscover their strengths, family bonds and the true spirit of Christmas. (insert excerpt)
PTSD is a heavy topic, so this is a hard-hitting and honest story. I wrote it from multiple viewpoints to show that this type of “invisible injury” affects more than just the service member. Everyone in the family suffers. But like my favorite holiday classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life, there is an inspiring and happy ending!
The inspiration for A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS came a few years ago while doing book research for my Lowcountry Series at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, Florida. I had the opportunity to do some volunteer work with the Wounded Warrior Odyssey Program. It was unexpected but fateful because I got to work with several veterans suffering from PTSD, and it’s where I witnessed the power of connection between injured veterans and dolphins. I struck up a conversation with one stoic veteran standing on the dock with his dog. You would never know he had PTSD, which is common because the injuries are on the inside. As we talked, I noticed he was constantly stroking his dog, never once taking his hand off of his furry companion. He explained to me why his service dog meant so much to him. One thing he said that still stands out in my mind was, “I love my wife but I need my dog.”
Seeing that bond was inspiring!
There’s a growing national awareness about the deadly effects of untreated PTSD among veterans, and this makes A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS all the more timely. The novel also highlights the positive work of Pets for Vets, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports veterans with PTSD by locating, adopting and training shelter dogs as lifelong companions. Check out the organization’s website to see if a Pets for Vets chapter is near you. I’m now a committed supporter of the national organization and my Charleston, SC chapter. These volunteers are doing life-saving work.
A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS is dedicated to my son, a Marine. And when I wrote this book, I tapped into my own feelings I had as a once-worried mother of a deployed Marine. I used all of these experiences to help write a novel that I hope will deliver more than just a heart-warming Christmas tale. May this novel deliver hope and inspiration to all who need it this holiday season, especially the military families living with PTSD today. To borrow a line from my novel, “God bless us, every one!”
Mary Alice Monroe is a New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books. She lives on a barrier island outside of Charleston, SC. Her new novel, A Lowcountry Christmas, is in stores now. Learn more at maryalicemonroe.com.
Want to read more from Mary Alice Monroe? Don’t miss this post on “The Art of Kindness.”
Want to read more about service dogs? Check out this post from the author of Weekends with Daisy.