Thirty Days with My Father: Finding Peace from Wartime PTSD is a brave memoir. Christal’s father suffers from PTSD and so, consequently, does Christal. She was diagnosed with it as a young adult and, once she left home for college, couldn’t bear to be around her father, the cause of so many of her traumatic memories. Her mother always insisted that she pray for her father and that her father was a good man, but Vietnam made him this way. That was true, but the psychological effects of having to keep such a terrible secret have repercussions throughout Christal’s life. Thirty Days With My Father is Christal’s attempt to finally get to know her father and understand him and maybe heal a little herself along the way.
I can’t imagine the strength it must have taken to put to paper the horrific memories that Christal and her father share. Both of them share very personal memories, whether it is through Christal’s own journal, which features memories of her childhood, or her father’s memories, which she records through their conversations. While PTSD is a disorder that we are coming to understand, especially for war veterans, I think that it is less known that the children of PTSD victims can eventually show signs of the disorder themselves.
In the years between when Christal left her family and she began the thirty day project, her father did a lot of healing. He found solace in music and playing music for other people. He was more comfortable in social situations. Christal finds, through her conversations, a man that she didn’t know but one that she recognized, because she sees so much of herself in him. Christal shows the evolution of their new relationship so well.
Structurally, this memoir isn’t perfect. The inclusion of the journal entries, memories that Presley recounts during the project, felt disjointed. I would have preferred a more fluid memoir that maybe wasn’t divided by day. But structural concerns aside, I feel like I really got to know Christal and her father and witness their changing relationship.
Thirty Days With My Father is not always easy to read, nor should it be. Both Christal and her father have harrowing memories to come to terms with. It is an important work on PTSD, especially for veterans and their children.
TLC Book Tours kindly provided me with a review copy of Thirty Days With My Father. You can find out more information about this tour, including other stops, here.