We Are Broken by Paul Coffey is a gripping, heart-wrenching story about human frailty. I was surprised by the depth of humanity on display in this book.
Title: We Are Broken
Author: Paul Coffey
Release: March 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction
The Great War may be over but for disfigured veteran Charlie Hobbs, peace brings its own struggle. Appalled by his gruesome appearance, Hobbs enlists the help of renowned sculptor Francis Derwent Wood, who creates him a lifelike mask to conceal his broken face. But in yearning for acceptance and a return to the life and the love, he left behind, Hobbs finds the country he fought for shattered by grief; an England in mourning for those who didn’t return. And he is about discover that it’s not only war that creates monsters. Demons can lurk deep within; and when they threaten to resurface, everything is at risk.
First, I have to say, I was surprised by the theme of this story and I felt silly being surprised. When I realized that Coffey really meant WE when he titled his book WE Are Broken, I almost smacked my own head. This book explores a view of fragmented humans. Broken people. Don’t let the cover fool you. Although the broken men of those war times play a huge role in this book, the fact is that “We” are broken. Humans reacting to loss, emotionally, physically, mentally, is what this book is about. Loss of a loved one, loss of a parent, loss of who we believe we once were. I was awestruck at Coffey’s ability to dig so deep into the souls of these people.
Due to that depth, I was fully connected with the characters. In many books, I’m able to pick a favorite character but in this book, I really cared for so many characters and wanted to see them through the book. The cast is fairly large, but with multiple storylines, also done masterfully and not confusing at all, I was able to follow each character seamlessly through their story. From young to old, Coffey has a way of painting a picture of a person that makes them vulnerable, yet open for the reader. The circumstances of their lives made them who they were and you could feel their pain, their joy and their struggle. Coffey selected perfect life events to pair with each characters unique story.
This book is like a movie. Settings were vivid and smartly decided. The book started for me in a park with a mother and child. I was so captivated by the scene, I could have been sitting in that same park with them. The setting came from not just the narration, but from the mother and child themselves. What they were doing, how they were interacting set the stage. It was brilliantly done.
Coffey has an easy to read style, which I feel was essential to a book like this. Trudging through five dollar words would not have suited the point and purpose of this book. The writing style helps the reader lose themselves among the pages. There is nothing between you and the story and being able to focus on the tragedy of humanity, the joys and pains of life is more important than digging through contrived word choices and jargon. Coffey stayed true to what I believe writing should be about: Riveting readers through storytelling, not vocabulary.
I highly recommend this book and it is squarely on my list of my top 10 favorite books of the year. Absolutely worth your time.