Catherine Karp hits the literary nail on the head with her latest novel, set in 1918 America. World War I is raging, and people on the home front live in fear of the deadly Spanish Influenza. Voices Airy begins as Lucy Crumb buries her beloved father and sets out by train for San Diego, California, and the home of her sister, Rosaline. On the train, the wealthy Anna Milne and her thirty-one-year old brother, Joseph, befriend Lucy and see her safely to her journey’s end.
Joseph, a brilliant architect before the war, suffers from his time at the front and the death of his beloved fiancée, Clara. He lives in a drug-induced haze from large doses of bromide, used to suppress the spirits of dead comrades who torment him every night. Rosaline, a former prostitute, provides consultations and séances in her home for those seeking contact with deceased loved ones. She tells Joseph that she has the power to make him well again. He is soon won over when Clara appears to him in her wedding dress telling him “You are forgiven. Now find another.” He promptly marries Rosaline, but his unspoken love for the shy and virtuous Lucy exists at the core of his being. Lucy believes her sister to be a fraud and begins fighting to save Joseph from the debilitating existence his wife and sister have created for him.
This is a powerful love story and an excellent study in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which would not be identified by name until seventy years after Joseph struggled so hard to overcome this affliction.