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Crooked Fences: A Novel


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This book reflects on the self-growth of veterans upon re-entering American society, and is a welcome voice in the PTSD discussion.

C.J. Heigelmann’s Crooked Fences is a novel depicting the hard problems faced by American veterans upon returning home. The story focuses on Todd Goodson, who has received an honourable discharge after a near-fatal event which resulted in the death of close squad members. Upon returning to New York City, he tries hard to fall into old lifestyle habits, such as getting along with his girlfriend, family, being productive, and sleeping properly. Running away from his demons eventually leads him into pursuing an unexpected career in the American South, which gradually reshapes his state of mind.

This book touches upon a number of topics both related and unrelated to serving in the military and PTSD, discussed with varying levels of nuance. Todd comes from a background of family and close friends who, like him, are to some degree homophobic, racist, and classist. The storyline delves on him tackling his fears and prejudices head on as they interact with his social re-integration and evolving lifestyle. Although between the beginning of the novel and the ending there is a notoriously vast improvement in Todd’s character and level of acceptance of others, throughout the book there is usually a gap in explanation as to exactly how Todd is able to re-mould his mentality quite so suddenly and out of the blue. He seems to invariably come across a situation which affects him personally, thinks about it a little bit, and decides to dismiss everything he had ever believed in within just one scene. This marks the frame of character development as a bit far-fetched, and although this highly seems to be inspired by real characters or events, it also places the story on the fictional side of the discussion of the very real war, PTSD and social re-integration of veterans. The story seems to be told to the reader rather than portrayed. Nevertheless, Todd begins as an unreasonably angry and resentful character, and his growth into a fully functioning adult is a rocky albeit reassuring event which will undoubtedly fuel the hopes of any recent veteran struggling to cope with life.

This book has some minor grammatical errors, but a problem that overall stands out the most is the lack of any plot resolution. Todd spends the entire novel in an incredibly toxic relationship with his girlfriend, a fact which he frustratingly never seems to realize and so never tries to do anything about it. The book ends with yet another sudden dismissal of everything that had been yearned for and is therefore completely lacking in any real conclusion or resolution.

However, this book is not badly written in a strict sense, although perhaps the story structure and some writing techniques could be better developed. Crooked Fences is an entertaining read with some endearing and interesting characters. All in all, Heigelmann presents another voice to be heard in the discussion of veterans and their social and political problems when re-entering permanent life in America. As this subject is not heard enough in popular entertainment or the arts, Heigelmann’s story helps to build a space for reflection and empathy with which readers can easily engage. If you are looking for an interesting read that is not too complex and presents a new perspective on self-growth, then Crooked Fences is for you.      


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I am currently a researcher in science fiction and the environmental/energy humanities. My areas of specialty are cli-fi, Afro/Africanfuturism, posthumanism, terraforming, space operas, literary fiction and Westerns. I also enjoy travelogues and environmental nonfiction.


About the author

C.J. Heigelmann is a writer and multi-genre novelist of Psychological Thriller, Contemporary, and Historical fiction. He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Historical Novel Society, and the South Carolina Writers Association. view profile

Published on January 03, 2020

Published by

90000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

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