Michael Steeb is an aimless twenty-one-year-old pot farmer living a day-to-day existence in an unfinished farmhouse in central California in the 1980s. He has no real plans or interests -- until the day he connects with the memories of a life that seems to belong to someone else, that of a young American soldier killed in World War II. Seeking answers on the Ouija board, he instead finds Walter, the spirit of the young soldier. Only much later does Michael come to understand that Walter is an earlier incarnation of himself. For while Michael is, of course, only one person, inside him are two dueling identities: an aimless, carefree pothead, and an angry young soldier who was unprepared for death and who won't let go. Only the resolution of deep grudges and grievances will enable Walter to move on, to merge into his new life, and only Michael can effect that transition.
Michael sets out to find Andrew, Walter's best friend from the war days -- the one who talked Walter into enlisting in the first place -- and Mary Ann, the fiancée Walter left behind. He finds them married to each other and much the same as they were forty years before. Mary Ann is still open and knowing, and recognizes Walter in Michael immediately. Andrew remains guarded, closed-minded, and skeptical, and he sets out to prove that Michael is the worst sort of con man.
Meanwhile the romance Walter began with Mary Ann forty years earlier reignites between Mary Ann and Michael, despite the harsh reality of the difference in their ages, despite the presence of a jealous and defensive Andrew.
Michael's task is the near-impossible: to lead Walter's elderly mother and middle-aged brother to closure and peace, to make Andrew believe this new reality, to deliver the truth about Walter's Purple Heart, and somehow to achieve the forgiveness that has been absent for so many years.
Woven throughout the story are the direct observations of Walter as a narrator from beyond the grave who slides through time correcting history, telling secrets, providing perspective on his life after death, and guiding the living on the path to his, and their own, release.
Original title: Walter's Purple Heart
Genre: Fiction→ General Fiction→ Midlife Crises, Journeys Of Discovery