Gatekeeper Press (2021)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (11/2021)
“Limestone Waters,” takes place in the mid-1980s in northwest New Jersey. Michael Walsh is stumbling through life as a Vietnam Vet with undiagnosed PTSD. His closest friends and one nemesis all went to high school and then on to Vietnam together. Each one of them is heavily affected by their experiences. While Michael has been raised by James, who has been a wonderful stepfather, he is influenced by not having had his birth father in his life. Believing he passed away when Mike was a child, he still hopes to find answers about this man. His present life is a mess; caught up in casual sex, drugs and alcohol, he drifts aimlessly through life while residing in a studio in his mother’s basement. His social life revolves around hanging out at a family pub that has been converted to a strip joint. Things shift for him while he is in his mid-thirties when he meets Terry, a feisty Irish widow. Moving into the room next to him in the basement creates some situations that force him to start waking up. The demons in his life, both past and present, are strong, and if anyone can knock them back into hell, it will be Terry.
“Limestone Waters,” tells an amazing coming of age tale. While it is strange to refer to a story about a man in his mid-thirties, a “coming of age tale,” the protagonist has been stuck for a long time and never fully mentally reached adulthood. His friends are also stuck because of trauma from the past, not only from Vietnam but also from high school. The deviant actions that they witnessed by their nemesis have played a huge role in keeping them from moving forward.
Healing limestone waters and a shaman-like character from local sacred grounds add an interesting touch to this story. It is on this land and in those waters where key events take place that can allow for their healing if they choose to use the knowledge from their experiences. The relationships in this story are extremely complicated. The lead characters try to avoid interacting with others in any way that is deep and meaningful. They use their vices to keep them from experiencing anything deeper and meaningful. Consequences of their actions force change, unresolved mysteries also come to light and the group, especially Mike, have no choice but to finally deal with them, and resolve them.
John McMahon has created an adult novel that will have readers hooked from the first page. The overall story is exciting and entertaining, especially with the well described erotic scenes. But the part that stayed with me, long after I stopped reading, was the growth and development of the characters. I highly recommend this novel for adults only.