This is most definitely a ghost story, but just as definitely is not about “ghosts” as they ordinarily come to mind.
Instead of visitations of disembodied spirits, Maryland psychologist-turned-novelist Michael Mil- graum addresses wounded spirits — and the ghosts he refers to are those of our past, even our ancestral, experiences.
Post-traumatic stress and its attendant psychological complications can come from any number of unfortunate events in our past — abuse or neglect as children, sexual abuse, encounters with excessive grief or violence.
These legacies of past trauma — ghosts, if you will — can be stubbornly destructive forces in people’s lives. They can very literally ruin lives.
But they can also be overcome.
Never Forget My Soul is a fictional explanation for how such a cure can be accomplished, as well as an illustration of how such trauma can be generated and later manifested.
The book has a lot to say about the value and power of group therapy — shared treatment between individuals with differing yet similar psychological conditions. It is a practice that many fear and just as many make fun of, perhaps out of discomfort.
In fact, group therapy can be a very uncomfortable experience — as the story makes clear — because for it to be effective it requires open and honest discussion of some of the most embarrassing, traumatic or even horrific experiences of our lives.
Milgraum draws both upon his experience as a psychologist and his skills as a storyteller to create characters and situations that are plausible and engrossing.
Readers see how the aftershocks of events that happened years or decades ago still linger today. Readers see the characters’ resistance and struggles through therapy and, at least in some cases, discover how their therapy can and does result in actual cures.
The Jewish reader will find even more depth than this, since the author also effectively illustrates how post-traumatic stress can be a multi-generational dynamic.
One of his central characters is the son of Holocaust survivors. His experiences growing up with parents who survived unspeakable horrors will be not only believable but familiar to the many American Jews who grew up in exactly those circumstances.
Ultimately, Never Forget My Soul is about healing, and the author has made a wise choice in how to convey his message. He has turned to fictional characters and situations, as opposed to actual case histories, to make his point intellectually and emotionally accessible to his readers.
In the end, the message comes across very well indeed.
Copyright © 2012 by the Intermountain Jewish News