September 28, 2017 Sakamoto Emma

Nina Berkhout on the inspiration for The Mosaic

The inspiration for The Mosaic came from an article that appeared on my Yahoo! homepage one day — the weirdest stories show up there sometimes — about a man in Kansas who was living in a decommissioned nuclear missile silo with his wife. The silo had been active during the Cold War and he’d bought it from the US government in the 1980s for really cheap, during a time when the government was removing “old” rockets and auctioning off many of these obsolete sites that had taken billions of dollars to build. He transformed it into a cozy home (bonus being that he could survive a nuclear apocalypse in there), and it came with over thirty acres of land.

The article also mentioned that there were missiles currently active throughout the Great Plains, and that’s what really caught my attention. My research began there … For around a year I read about the weapons of mass destruction presently on high-alert status in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. I had no idea just how many of these nukes were actually hidden in plain sight, visible from highways, even. Imagine having to live in a town surrounded by all those killing machines, I thought. And so my story began …

My protagonist, Twyla, is a pacifist and she’s had to grow up in Halo, Montana, a community attached to Angstrom Air Force Base. Angstrom guards the missiles in the nearby fields, and its fighter jets also participate in bombings in the Middle East. Twyla hates everything that Halo represents and she wants out. But to graduate she has to fulfill volunteer hours. She gets stuck assisting Gabriel Finch, a Marine who spends all his time in the decommissioned silo on his property. Twyla thinks he’s gearing up for a shooting rampage or for Judgment Day, but as it turns out, Gabriel is working on a massive art installation – his way of coping with PTSD. Little by little, Twyla begins to realize that things aren’t as black-and-white as she assumed when it comes to warfare and those who participate in it.

You could say this story is about the looming threat of nuclear war and the impact of war on veterans, both of which it is, but more than this, to me The Mosaic is a love story. A love story between two young people living in an increasingly messed-up world. And of course, the novel is about the mosaic itself, and how art can be born from devastation.


The Mosaic

Written by Nina Berkhout

Twyla Jane Lee has one goal. To finish senior year so she can get out of her military hometown of Halo, Montana. But to graduate, she needs to complete forty hours of community service, and that means helping out a rude and reclusive former Marine named Gabriel Finch.

A young veteran of the conflicts in the Middle East, Gabriel spends his days holed up in a decommissioned nuclear missile silo on his family farm. Twyla assumes he’s just another doomsday prepper, readying his underground shelter for Armageddon. But soon she finds out the truth, and it takes her breath away.

Gradually the two misfits form a bond, and Twyla begins to unearth the secrets that have left the Marine battling ghosts. Her discoveries force her to question her views on the wars until she realizes that even if she gets out of Halo, she won’t ever be able to leave Gabriel Finch’s story behind her.

A beautifully written and thought-provoking novel about a teen facing the collision of love, ideals and uncertainty about her own future.

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