Take a piece of stain glass and place it in a protective covering making sure that it will be out of the way of anyone that could crack it. Fragile and yet magnificent to look at, the slightest crack and the slightest tug on the outer glass could cause it to shatter. Life is fragile and when things happen that create harm, disaster and your life feels as fragile as a stain glass window or apiece of porcelain that has just fallen to the ground and shattered nothing will ever be the same unless you mend it, glue it and return it to its original and pristine shape.
Mac Anderson’s life was perfect until it was not. Never realizing that he was harboring something within his soul and mind that needed to be released, he might never be the same or whole again. Jen and Mac had an idyllic life until one night something triggered a memory that was laid dormant in the recesses of his mind for many years and the events that follow would not only terrify him but take his family to another level that they were never sure they would ever recover from. Jillian, Bella and Brady are his life and Jen his rock until the night of his 15th anniversary when things began to shatter with Mac even realizing it. A car accident that they passed on the way home from their romantic evening would take hold of his every thought and bring back something from his past that would destroy his present but it would take months before he would face the reality of what his mind was remembering and until then Mac Anderson would live in his own form of the Twilight Zone.
A family that was close listened to each other’s concerns and three children whose love for their father far surpassed most. But, a simple action like blowing up a balloon at his son’s birthday party set off a chain of events that would destroy, take down and separate a family for a long time. Mac never realized or saw it coming as his whole life crumbled like a piece of cookie that you smash in your hands and throw away the tiny crumbs his life just disintegrated right in front of his eyes and blindsided him.
Refusing to face reality he sank down further taking its toll at work, at home and finally without realizing it on his family and friends. Losing it all and resorting to drinking to bury his woes and true feelings he never realized what was triggering his panic attacks or that he even had these attacks.
The exact causes of these panic attacks and disorder are not clear and when Mac experiences them he has no idea what they are or the ramifications of what will happen next. Stressed at work, angry because his wife decided to go back to work as a reporter for a local newspaper and angry with himself but has no idea why, even his campaigns at work falter and eventually he’s given a leave of absence which sends him into the darkest abbess hiding behind his own shell of a person. Losing his job, anger, fear triggered his attacks and they would come on without warning. Violent, screaming jags at this children, frightening them and having Jen make a decision that would tear them apart, Mac Anderson was about to fall into a deep hole but will he ever climb out?
The final blow was when he attacked his wife in front of his kids at home and she was forced to all 911. Devastated, angry, each child expressing their fears, unhappiness and feelings in his/her own way, Jen is forced to take action and with the help of her sister and her mother she hopes to get the support she needs. The scene is vividly depicted as Mac realizes what is fate might be and the violence and his actions speak volumes for someone out of control. Making sure that the police have the situation under control the scene in court will rip you apart as it does Jen. Learning more about panic attacks and the fact that he also has PTSD, the author shares the symptoms, the pitfalls of not dealing or facing it and the judge’s harsh ruling when it comes to his children and his fate. Mac falls down deeper into the darkest recesses of his mind, lies, cheats and drinks and the scene where he literally falls into the water and falls asleep is heart wrenching. Forced to leave his home and not allowed to see his children due to a court order forbidding him contact, as his children each deal with him no longer visible in their lives. Bella says her prayers nightly and prays for her father and his return. Brady deals with it hoping he will return and Jillian, the oldest becomes angry, recalcitrant and defies her mother. Trouble in school, angry at the world, Jillian also falls down into her own dark hole and then creates a wall not allowing anyone to get close including Brady and Bella.
Things spiral out of control and the therapist he sees is really inadequate and not very competent leaving him in need of some real help. Going back to court and his lawyer literally helpless as the judge imposes the hardest restriction ever and the length of time he can no longer see or contact his children. When he sends a letter to his youngest child or the others, Jen refuses to allow them to know they were even sent. His panic disorders became so frequent and his fears real that when his friend Brandt suggested a real therapist that might help him why didn’t he grab at the chance?
When he finally decides to check into a mental institution for help and meets Faust Fiore his life might take a strong turn for the better and the hope that he might crawl out of that dark hole possible. This is a strong story with a complex plot that will help readers understand the ramifications of what happens when someone has panic attacks and PTSD depression and refuses to face it. Just how far will Mac go to regain his life, reunite with his children and forgive himself for something from the past?
As you learn more about what he’s experiencing, see his downfall and then learn the strategies that Fiore uses to try and bring him back to himself, you hear the harsh words and lack of faith that the judge renders as she lengthens his distance from his children as they too fall into dark places while Jen and her co-worker Joel find their own way of dealing with life through work. At times it seems that Jen often thinks about Mac, her love for him yet distances herself through her work in order to cope with the harsh realities that each of her children are facing. His attacks affected all three children and his wife. The attacks are so vividly described the reader might feel that he/she is experiencing them along with Mac helping you to understand the seriousness of this disorder. Alcohol, meds and other means of coping with it brings him to the realization that he needs more than just help to deal with the attacks, drinking but he needs to dig down to find the triggers and why he’s so angry with himself and the world. Every step of the way as Jen tried to connect and help Mac he pushed her aside and his words were biting and cutting causing her to face more than the harsh realities of his illness and even accusing her of betraying him.
Finding his soul, his true self and then facing the fact that what happened so long ago was not his fault will he realize that, ask forgiveness in a unique and heartfelt way and find his way back to his family and friends? Mac needs to understand his condition and even Mal the nurse seems hardnosed but her words might help make him stronger as Fiore takes him slowly back into the world he wants to reunite but will anyone be there when the sun finally he hopes rises and the dark clouds and mist wear away? The flashbacks that he shares with us of the good times and Jen reminds herself of many too leads to the climatic courtroom scene that will either bring him home or keep him where the darkness still lies. The ending is powerful and when you see what’s inside each of the Three Shoeboxes you will learn just how strong the love of a father is and how far someone will go to show his children how much he cares. Author Steven Manchester takes us deep inside the heart, mind and soul of Mac Anderson from the darkest pits of doom to the sunshine that he hopes will come out and shine on him. Each box is unique and each one shows how much he cares for the three people that matter the most in his life. How far will a father go to prove his love for his children: Open each box and find out!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ network/MJ magazine