Book Review – Revenants: The Odyssey Home by Scott Kauffman

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.

Format: ebook Publisher: Moonshine Cove Pages: 275
Publication: 23rd Dec 2015 Genre: Historical Fiction    

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My Review

Grief-stricken at the death of her brother, Nathan, in Vietnam, Betsy is in danger of going off the rails. In movingly described scenes, she struggles to find a reason to go on living, her only solace the possessions Nathan left behind, such as his copy of The Odyssey.

What seems like punishment at first – assignment to the local veterans’ hospital – turns out to provide Betsy with the purpose in life she needs. Initially, she reacts in horror at the extent of some of the patient’s awful injuries. However, realising that her brother could have been one of them if things had turned out differently, she decides to do everything in her power to help them recover sufficiently to return home. I was moved by Betsy’s growing relationship with the injured soldiers, as she starts to see past their physical injuries to the human being inside. They are the forgotten victims of the war, used only for political advantage by local politician, Congressman Hanna, but otherwise shunned by the local community, an inconvenient reminder of the dreadful consequences of war.

When Betsy discovers the presence of a mystery patient hidden away on the top of floor of the hospital – a severely injured survivor of the First World War – she sets out to find out his identity and, despite the decades that have elapsed, find a way to bring him home.  However, like Odysseus, there are forces seeking to prevent his return and in this case they are not Gods but take human form, namely Congressman Hanna. For some reason, he is determined to do anything to prevent discovery of the injured soldier’s identity.

Betsy enlists the help of her brother, Bartholomew, and between them they find the key to communicating with the mystery patient. In wonderful, descriptive writing, the soldier’s story is revealed, including the full horror of the trenches, the appalling injuries and death toll of the First World War.   (I think we have to suspend disbelief that this depth of detail could have been communicated in the manner described.) With the help of a young journalist, Matt, who is prepared to challenge the influence of Congressman Hanna (who owns the local newspaper as well as just about everything else in the town), they set out to find documentary proof of the soldier’s identity.

However, it seems there is a price to pay for everything and the secrets of the past are not so easily laid to rest. Betsy’s own journey through her grief takes many years as she too is prevented from finding her own version of home – coming to terms with Nathan’s death.

I found this a fascinating, multi-layered book that explores themes such as the consequences of actions, how power can corrupt, the need to do penance for past actions and the lasting, often unforeseen, impacts of war, not just on the participants but on their families and communities as well. It surprised me for being much more than just a mystery. It was a really thought-provoking, compelling story.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Compelling, moving, mystery

Try something similar…The Somme Legacy by M J Lee (click here to read my review)

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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