Book Review: The Battle Within

The Battle Within

By Alastair Luft

353 Pages • ISBN: 978-1942645498

According to the U.S. National Centre of PTSD, 8 million people will struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, during any given year. The disease manifests itself in both physically, through neurological or cardiovascular issues, and mentally, torturing the victim with feelings of depression, guilt, and perpetual tension. The mark of PTSD comes with an inherent sense of guilt and alienation. Alastair Luft breaks through this stigma with his debut novel, The Battle Within.

The novel is a war story without the warzone. Major Hugh Degare is at a major turning point in his career, transitioning from active combat to desk jockey. To his dread, his old battles have been replaced with new ones – internal ones. He can’t sleep. He’s tormented by horrible memories of combat. The Battle Within follows Degare’s attempts to maintain his sanity, turning to his loved ones and psychologists. After nothing seems to alleviate him of his past traumas, he finally turns to the broken and questionable military medical system.

Luft’s novel features thoughtful psychological design, driving this character study along at a thriller’s pace. Ultimately, at the centre of the novel is Dagare’s earnest love for his family, something that is just as important to him as his mental health itself. The realism of Luft’s prose adds extra dimensions the story. Luft is a 20-year veteran of the Canadian military, having been deployed in Afghanistan six times. This is not only felt in the flashbacks to battle, but in the transition to civilian life as well. Luft himself has only faced life away from the battlefield in the past few years, following the birth of his second daughter.

Despite being a novel primarily about coping with mental health, it has all the energy of a war novel whose primary plot points rotate around explosions and Kevlar. The Battle Within removes the stigma that often plagues mental challenges such as PTSD, instead displaying the courage and strength that is needed to overcome it.