In The Trion Syndrome, a man’s son finds his father at the end of his strength and helps him find his way.
Dave, the book’s protagonist, is near suicide. His inescapable memories of Vietnam and his attempts to cope with them have destroyed his marriage and his job. He’s run away to Maine where he works in a gas station and lives in a storage shed.
Dave’s mother was a German war bride, so he grew up speaking both German and English. While finishing his doctorate in German—after his military service in Vietnam—he spends time studying in Germany and has an affair with a German woman. He breaks off the affair and returns to the U.S. to marry the woman he loves. Unbeknownst to him, the woman he abandons is pregnant and bears a son she names Hans.
After the death of his mother, Hans, now a young man, sets out to find his father and locates him living as a bum in a storage shed in Maine. Hans cajoles Dave into turning his life around.
Invariably when I write, a moment or scene appears in my imagination and moves me deeply. That moment for Trion was Hans telling Dave that he is Dave’s son. The idea of a man giving so much to save his father touched my core. Over time, the characters and the story revealed themselves to me until I had to write the book.
I think I found the relationship between Dave and Hans so galvanizing because it is what I would have wanted myself. By the time my own children were grown, I had come to terms with my own trauma resulting from combat in Vietnam. But I was unusual. Many combatants, like Dave, have suppressed their memories which then surface as the veteran ages. That is why, in my estimate, that the rate of suicides among Vietnam veterans is so much higher than among veterans of later wars. The figures for later wars will rise as the men age.
My love for my children is the strongest enduring love I’ve known in my life, exceeded in power only by the short-lived bond I felt for men who fought by my side in combat. The kindness and generosity shown me by my children are treasures I will always cherish. Hence my emotional response to Hans caring for Dave.