“Julie?” Dr. Rosa leans in toward me. “I’d like you to consider a new treatment. It’s not a medication. It’s something that will take a strong commitment from you.”
I shoot her a wary look. “I’m not trying the art or yoga classes again.”
“Fine. Because this is something quite different.” She pauses, watching me closely.
“I’d like to prescribe a companion animal for you. A cat perhaps. Or a dog.”
I stare at her. “You want me to get a pet?” I feel something as I say this. It’s a shimmery feeling I haven’t had for so long, it takes me by surprise. It might be actual interest. But the shimmer swiftly dies. “My building doesn’t allow pets.”
Coming Back tells the story of Julie and her recovery after a horrific accident. Julie has no memory of her accident, just feelings of dread. Prior to this event, she had lived with boyfriend Roger and worked as a paralegal, but everything changed after the accident. Almost a year later, Julie is only able to leave her apartment for short period periods of time, and even doing this challenges her. Most days, she must force herself to even just get out of bed.
Denman begins the story one year after a tragic accident, and the main character is “stuck”, and things do not seem to be improving. She cannot force herself to move forward. Coming Back is truly about survival. It is also about what makes a life worth living. Finally, Denman looks at PTSD and strips away the stigma associated with mental health. She introduces her readers to the idea of therapy pets. It is only when Julie’s therapist, Dr. Rosa, suggest a therapy pet, and Julie decides to get a horse that she begins to move forward. She makes mistakes and still struggles to leave her apartment but now, for the first time, Julie feels her life has meaning and a purpose.
Coming Back, a must-read novel, challenges its readers to look not only outward without judgement but also inward.
Christina Pike is the principal of Macdonald Drive Junior High in St. John’s, Newfoundland.