Little Shadow: S. L. Schultz
Shadow of hope, shadow of fear, shadow of love, shadow of hopelessness. These phrases each have their own meanings and each one can be applied to the many characters within this compelling and heartfelt novel. Shadows often cast a veil of darkness over many lives, which can tint and darken the realities hiding what you can no longer see or face. A family connected by blood but disconnected and disjointed by hate, fear, revenge, selfishness and wants. Many live within two separate worlds that they have created within their minds and others just life each day flashing back to the past, remembering what was before and not dealing with what is.
In June 1991, in a small town where the Becker family lives something happens that would foretell death. A painting falls off of the wall in Martha Bagwell’s house setting off a chain of events that will keep you wondering whether superstitions do come true, whether death will really come to someone or if an angel will rise and no one will die. Martha Bagwell relates the event as a sign of someone’s imminent death. Angels appear and witness the falling of the painting. Does that mean it will come true? According to mother someone within her family will die within the next few days. But, who and why?
A Dear John letter sets the stage for revenge and hate as Billy Bagwell, deciding to leave his wife and child and go off to war, reads a letter that no Marine ever wants to receive. His wife Brenda no longer wants him in her life and returning home form the first Gulf War, hoping to reconnect with her and his daughter Lily Rose, what he finds is another man in his bed. What do you do when you learn your wife has moved on with your best friend? What do you do when your best friend and Marine dies right in front of you before returning home. Emotions rise, events flashback to just what happened to his buddy James Glover, why he feels guilty about his death and the first shadow of guilt is cast over Billy. Billy Bagwell wants to take his friend out and punish his wife. But, first let’s meet Brenda’s father Martin who lives within two separate worlds. The first is the one where his family and children treat him like God and the other is where he would browbeat, berate and degrade his wife. Secrets, lies, deceit, hate and the unwillingness to accept people for who they are define Martin. But, there is much more as one night his two children lie in bed fast asleep and someone comes in grabs his wife and eventually she is found dead. Jeanine in one world would be alive and still with him. Peter and Brenda his children never learned what happened to their mother, nor did Martin ever bother to really bond with either one of them. Remembering the past he still cannot face the present. Why would Brenda cringe each time she hears his voice? What happens when he learns the truth about his son?
James Tillman is the man who has replaced Billy in Brenda’s life but is he the man she loves or is the man who fills a void. Brenda does not want to be alone and feels that Billy deserted her and their daughter Lily Rose and thinks she has moved on with James. But, in reality when you read the scenes between them you can guess that it was not for the conversation, his lack of understanding about Lily Rose but to fill a space that they both needed filled.
When the author flashes back to James and his life as a young child the reader will learn that he was abused and in order to prove that he is a man he flaunts himself, uses his good looks and finds himself in many different beds claiming that Brenda is the one person he truly cares about but does he? Each chapter relates information about individual characters but the author flashes back to 1970 and creates a diary of events that will help readers understand the motives of each character, how their lives intertwine and the shadows cast above each one. We meet Brenda, as a small child who likes Lily Rose liked to wander off in the woods. Martha, her grandmother ran into the fields to find her. Samuel her other son, comes to the rescue as the author moves up one year and we meet Jeanine. Getting to know her better and we find she had a kind heart but could not withstand Martin’s abuse. Martin always treated her cruelly because of his own insecurities and not wanting her to look at anyone else. His harsh words can be heard on pages 160-161. Possession is nine tenths of the law but I don’t think they meant that regarding wife!
September 1980 and the author reminds us of what happened to Jeanine when found dead. His reaction quite stark as we hear Brenda’s screams even in the present as Martha leaves over the rear of the sofa to pull up the fallen painting: It won’t move!
From 1981 we learn about Brenda’s sweet sixteen, we learn about her friendship with James and her eventual marriage to Billy as the author takes us step by step inside their bedroom, their courtship and relationship but not before Martha the following year has a very important conversation with Brenda and the end result will surprise readers. From 1986 where we find Brenda and Billy and 1989 the Christmas holiday the family’s closeness was really quite sparse. Martin never really relates to anyone one, is controlling and judgmental and never ever expresses any real positive emotions.
Peter is confused and wants to be considered a man and goes out with the first one that provides what he thinks he needs. But, the pain of the first time is real, the man steals his car and it is Martha that takes care of him and gently guides him to bed. But, Peter is mixed up and his hormones seem to rule as he goes after the young man who stole his car and gave him what he thinks is the gratification he needed. But, Martin, Sammie his brother and Billy decide to go after Todd and what happens enlightens readers as to just how confused Peter really is and why he will do anything to get away from Martin.
Throughout the story many of the characters see Angels that guide them and protect them. I believe in Angels. My sister MJ is my guardian angel from above whom I know is always there when I need her. So, when Lily Rose tells her mother she saw an Angel, why is it that only Martha believes her?
Things change drastically when the find Peter’s car and what is hidden beneath the hood of the trunk horrifies Martin. Peter has entered the world of pornography as he finds him bent over doing things with a man claiming he can get him into movies if he follows directions. Naïve, alone and hurt he pushes everyone aside and runs as far as he can from his family leaving his shadow in his place. Brenda exists in her own world. Alone, angry and feeling that no one understands her. Finding Peter after he disappears hoping to bond with Brenda a simple statement would change it all. Brenda is single minded and does not hear the thoughts of other. Martin hears what he wants to hear. Peter is trapped in his own world thinking that the two men that came into his life are his answer to freedom. Lily just wants her father to live with her but sometimes you cannot have what you want. Listening to Billy explain that she must be strong, teaching her grownup lessons in life, just what happens when Lily hears enough you won’t believe.
A lover’s triangle that started a chain of events that created a spiral downfall for an entire family. A father who never really listened to his son and a brother fighting his own demons from the war and living on borrowed time. Lily Rose only wants her parents to live together but running away and hoping to find refuge might take her life? Will the prophecy take Lily? Will it finally silence Martin and let him rest his demons? What about Sammie and the truth about the war and his combat duty in Vietnam?
Billy comes home and his goal is to make both Brenda and James pay. Billy finds himself torn between this loyalties as a father, his own demons regarding the death of his friend, and the guilt he feels going off to war but the guilt he can’t erase. Lighting a cigarette: What would have happened if he did not?
Author S.L. Schutlz brings to light the issues of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, veterans returning hoping to find a place for themselves and the many different adult themes vividly created by the author. From Peter scenes with two men to Brenda’s with James the author creates new meaning to using sex as a means to finding some type of acceptance.
Martin tries to hide his son’s sins and Sammie his own guilt for the war. A confrontation that will take the life of one person and change the course of another as one young girl falls for James and the end result you won’t believe. What happens when Billy and James come to blows in a bar? What happens when one young girl defends James and refuses to leave his side? Who lives? Who dies? Whose shadow casts the widest veil in the end? Will Billy ever realize just how much he really has? Will Brenda ever see the light behind the shadow that hides her fears? Little Shadow: Whose is the darkest?
The author teaches the reader about Benevolent Death and Stalking Death when Sammie explains that one is where you close your eyes peacefully and die and the other when you might have an accident or an act of nature that causes you to meet your maker. Stalking Death will hunt you down. Will Benevolent Death take someone’s life? Will they be hunted and stalked? Read Little Shadow and you decide! When family ties are severed can there’s be sewn back together? What is next for these characters? Only the author knows and hopefully will share their fate when she pens her next novel.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer