A dedicated lawyer who advocates for mentally ill patients, Vivian, contending with the memories and aftereffects of her own bad childhood, makes a bold move during a family reunion that leaves her alone in new and terrifying ways, causing her to unravel.
... spirited ... Although the novel revolves in some way around abuse, Johnson isn’t interested in indulging the reader with intricate and voyeuristic details of her protagonist’s primary trauma. In Post-traumatic, Johnson approaches the issue by focusing instead on the reverb of trauma that manifests in Vivian’s real and fantasy life ... recognizes the nature of trauma as a very real, disorderly, and lingering spillage, an invasive stranger all too often mistaken for a companion. Vivian’s awareness of her 'particular kind of female suffering' is a first step to compassion for herself and other women in her life. It’s also a step toward falling out of love with her suffering.
The reader discovers that Vivian embodies the titular 'post-traumatic' to the fullest, setting the tone for this somewhat depressing novel with a wounded, difficult protagonist. Vivian ruminates endlessly about her interactions with others, from strangers to men she dates, and she is always hyperaware of her surroundings ... Readers get a glimpse of the root cause of her deep trauma when she goes to the extreme to avoid her immediate family. Vivian is high-strung, funny, and cynical, musing about social and racial injustices, the objectification of women, and the complexities of relationships. Johnson’s prose hurries along, embodying Vivian’s anxiety, intelligence, and vigilance, resulting in an uneven novel that veers between edgy entertainment and resonant drama.
Brutally funny and poignant ... Dark humor is another coping mechanism for Vivian, which Johnson deploys with tremendous skill ... Throughout, Vivian’s confrontational interactions feel achingly true to life. This is revelatory and powerful.