Cameron Donnelly has seen a great of darkness working as a UN relief aide. And after ten years in the field, he has nothing left to give. He finds himself anxiously awaiting his return to the States, believing once he goes home, the nightmares and pain will be left behind. Journalist Tyler Ang grew up in a foster system that showed little kindness and it took every ounce of strength to escape its grip. He’s done well for himself, but his career has grown stagnant and he finds himself forced to do the Chinatown beat simply because he has the right skin color. Tyler wants bolder, grittier pieces and he interviews a surly Cameron in Kenya to prove he can handle the work of a foreign correspondent.
The two share a passionate encounter, and that should have been the end of it. But fate keeps drawing them back together and neither one of them quite knows what to make of their relationship. In fact, the only thing Tyler knows for sure is that Cameron is struggling and failing to put his past behind him. Love makes Tyler care more for Cameron then anyone before him, but convincing the broken man to get help may destroy the fragile bonds they’ve built.
Inside Darkness was an excellent exploration of PTSD and the effects it can have on an individual (and their family) long after the actual traumatic event has passed. The book mentions that 30% of aide workers suffer from PTSD and it’s a statistic that doesn’t get much attention. In Cameron, we see a man who has dedicated himself to helping others. But in doing so, he’s seen violence, death, and human suffering on a near daily basis. The author has done an excellent job of portraying his despair, which goes well beyond world weariness and evolves into self-destructive desolation. We feel a certain measure of sympathy for Cam, but never pity, which would have been easy writing choice to make. Tyler is a little harder to read, but his need to move beyond cultural stereotypes and be recognized as a journalist independent of his skin color is rendered very well. The author tackles this issue with the perfect amount of outrage and individualism that makes Tyler enjoyable as a character.
The only the thing that Inside Darkness suffers from is a bit of drag. The story has a consistent even flow, but about half way through, it seems to lose some momentum. It’s only noticeable because the rest of Inside Darkness moves so smoothly. It’s a tad jarring, but it doesn’t last long and doesn’t detract from the wider story. I think part of this issue comes down to some of Cam’s family interactions, which just felt somewhat wedged into the story.
On the whole, Inside Darkness is a wonderful book that leaves its readers with plenty of emotional resonance. Cam’s struggle with PTSD is painful and hard to read, but his relationship with Tyler is both redemptive and sweet. I think nearly everyone would enjoy this one, but especially fans of angsty, wearied characters.