Is déjà vu just an eerie happenstance or is it a reminder of a recessed past? For Austin Fletcher, an honorably discharged Vietnam veteran, the line between that truth and purported illusion is so blurred that differentiating between the two can be an exercise in futility. And revelations come at a premium.
Freshly landed in the U.S., Austin treks to the northern backcountry of Belden, Maine to honor his word and claim the house that his fallen brother Maynard Whittier willed to him. Austin is a young man dedicated to the wishes of his fellow comrades. Though, even he doesn’t understand why Maynard chose him. But Austin is a stubborn ox, and you can’t reason with a bull-headed soldier on a mission.
He arrives to find the quaint house fully stocked but buried in the frozen wilderness, far from the constraints of civilization. It’s the cozy cousin to the Overlook Hotel. And like the Overlook, Maynard’s home invites the same haunting past, giving credence to the notion that a home absorbs its occupants whether they’re willing participants or not.
His cozy days give way to colder nights. And the longer he stays, the more Austin finds himself manic and isolated, manifesting the same demons he thought he left behind in Vietnam. But with a house as alive as Maynard’s, Austin will soon find out that the demons he encounters are just as real as those of his own making.
Maynard’s House is a jarring, psychological study that confronts the struggles of post-traumatic stress disorder head-on. It’s a novel that finds Raucher posing the thorny questions that have made the novel such a vital piece of American literature. How do veterans settle back into a society that offers little to no helping hand? And how culpable are we to look the other way? It’s enough to make you wonder how much of the horror that Austin faces is rooted in the external forces that plague many returning service members.
But it’s also a novel with an idyllic, pastoral setting that belies its demonic presence. It’s where the very foundation of tranquility is undermined, serving as the perfect venue for a virtual Noah’s Ark. One that’s cursed by a captain who abandoned ship long before it veered back to port. So keep your hands at your sides at all times. These animals are famished and it’s way past their dinner time.
Herman Raucer is best known for his novel and screenplay for The Summer of ’42. This edition of Maynard’s House includes a new introduction by Jenny Raucher and a wraparound dustjacket and frontispiece by artist Karl Fitzgerald.