Revenants: The Odyssey Home by Scott Kauffman

Today I am delighted to bring you an excerpt from Scott Kauffman’s compelling novel, Revenants: The Odyssey Home.  

RevenantsAbout the Book

Only Betsy can get him home in time; only he can bring her back before it’s too late.

A grief-stricken candy-striper serving in a VA hospital following her brother’s death in Vietnam struggles to return home an anonymous veteran of the Great War against the skulduggery of a congressman who not only controls the hospital as part of his small-town fiefdom but knows the name of her veteran. The name, if revealed, would end his political ambitions and his fifty-year marriage. In its retelling of Odysseus’ journey, Revenants casts a flickering candle upon the Charon toll exacted not only from the families of those who fail to return home but of those who do.

Revenant: A dead person believed to have come back as a ghost
Charon: In Greek mythology, a ferryman who took the souls of the dead across the River Styx to Hades
Odysseus: Mythical king of Ithaca, the main character in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey.

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Excerpt from Revenants: The Odyssey Home

Nathan was the best. A grownup who hadn’t quite gotten the hang of growing up. When he came home we cruised the neighborhood in his cherry-bomb Barracuda convertible with Tavo his poodle who he never once duded up at the groomers but let his fur grow and grow until Tavo looked like this disembodied Afro waddling about on four legs. If Nathan needed to be somewhere, he’d pay me five dollars to watch him. I would’ve watched him for free, but I didn’t turn down the cash either because when you’re a kid you’ve never sufficient operating capital for necessities like hot chocolate when ice-skating and you can only hustle so much babysitting. Then me and Nathan would go to the Dairy Queen, sometimes twice in the same day, and afterwards, when I was smaller, he’d drive us over to Hanna Park where he’d carry me to the playground shrieking on his shoulders or when I got older if it was summer and sometimes even in winter he’d drop the top down and crank up the radio and we’d belt out the lyrics, getting these weird looks from other drivers.

Be-be-be-Bennie and the Jets.

Nathan’s boxes, like him, were the best. They didn’t arrive with little-girl stuff anymore but for the woman he saw me becoming. Like the year before his box had this gold watch that Mom said I couldn’t wear every day but only for weddings and the spring prom and stuff. With it came this dozen-drawer jewelry box hand crafted out of ebony, and inside one of its tiny drawers was a pair of half-carat diamond earrings, but Mom said I still had to wait until I was seventeen – what was it with her about me turning seventeen – before getting my ears pierced?

Nathan’s boxes were just so boss, but I always worried they might not make it. No need for me to have worried that Christmas. The one holding his Distinguished Service Cross came with a commendation telling us that on December 13, 1973, his helicopter, part of the Joint Casualty Resolution Centre and identified by three orange stripes, took off before dawn from its base in Thailand to search for MIAs at a crash site in Bin Chanh, twelve miles southwest of what was then Saigon. Nathan and his men, all Special Forces veterans, wore fatigues emblazoned with orange pockets and insignia identifying them as members of the Four-Party Joint Military Team. There was this sort-of-ceasefire in place, and an American delegate to the Paris Peace talks informed the North of the mission a week before. They’d no more than touched down when a Chinese B-40 rocket exploded inside the cockpit, and he and the handful of survivors came under intense machine gun and small arms rifle fire from the thirty-some Viet Cong concealed in a row of palm trees. Though pinned down, Nathan stood up, hands raised.

Không có v ũ khí. Unarmed. Không có v ũ khí

Three days after the American delegate to the Paris Peace talks threw Nathan’s bloodstained jacket across the negotiation table and the day after the honor guard lowered his casket into the frozen earth at the cemetery overlooking Hanna Park, his Christmas box came. The doorbell rang, and I ran stocking-footed downstairs where Mom slumped against the front door, crumple-faced and still dressed in her flannel nightgown because she slept a lot now, the night’s snow wisping over her pale legs, Nathan’s white-dusted box on the porch behind the postman who knelt beside her.

Ma’am? What is it? Ma’am?

Praise for Revenants: The Odyssey Home

‘Revenants will not fade quickly as less substantial novels do but will resonate in the reader’s heart and mind for years to come.’ (Mark Spencer, Dean, School of Arts and Humanities, University of Arkansas)

“Kauffman writes with a divinely inspired descriptive power that draws you in and leaves an image in the reader’s mind to muse upon long afterwards.” (John H. Byk, Writers Alive)

‘The true damage of war is…the damage done to the survivors and their families…we see this damage portrayed movingly in his characters. This is a book you must read to see the truth of war.’ (Robert Mustin, Sam’s Place: Stories)

‘…beautifully written…an intriguing story which will linger in the reader’s mind far after the final page has been turned.’ (Florentine, Readiculously Peachy Blog)

‘…compelling… skillful character development…makes us see just exactly what it is like to be wounded, in soul and spirit.’ (Brian Francis Heffron, author of award winning novel Colorado Mandala)

ScottKauffmanAbout the Author

Scott claims his fiction career began with an in-class book report written in Mrs. Baer’s eighth-grade English class when, due to a conflict of priorities, he failed to read the book. An exercise of imagination was required. Scott snagged a B, better than the C he received on his last report when he actually read the book. Thus began his life-long apprenticeship as a teller of tales and, some would snidely suggest, as a lawyer as well, (but they would be cynics; a race Oscar Wilde warned us knew the price of everything and the value of nothing).

Scott is the author of the legal-suspense novel, In Deepest Consequences, and a recipient of the 2011 Mighty River Short Story Contest and the 2010 Hackney Literary Award. His short fiction has been appeared in Big Muddy, Adelaide Magazine, and Lascaux Review. He is now at work on two novel manuscripts and a collection of short stories.

Scott is an attorney in Irvine, California, where his practice focuses upon white-collar crime and tax litigation with his clients providing him endless story fodder.

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2 thoughts on “Revenants: The Odyssey Home by Scott Kauffman

  1. […] Today’s guest on What Cathy Read Next is Scott Kauffman, author of Revenants: The Odyssey Home. I recently read Scott’s book – you can read my review here – and it generated lots of questions in my mind. So I’m thrilled that Scott has agreed to answer some of my questions and talk more about the book and his inspiration for writing it. If you need any further persuading to read the book, you can find an excerpt from the opening chapter here. […]


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