Revenants: The Odyssey Home
By Scott Kauffman
Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC
Genre: Historical Fiction
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 Viet Nam struggles to return home an anonymous veteran of the Great War against the skullduggery of a congressman who not only controls the hospital as part of his small-town fiefdom but knows the name of her veteran. A 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…
First, I chose to omit a portion of the information (mainly praise) included in the synopsis at Goodreads. Feel free to click the title link above if you would like to see that information in its entirety.
Revenants: The Odyssey Home is narrated in 3rd person and occurs mainly through the eyes of our young high school heroine Betsy. After the loss of her brother in Vietnam, she begins to rebel and as result is at risk of being held back a year in school. She strikes an agreement to volunteer the remainder of her time (until the next school year) as a candy-striper at nearby VA Hospital in order to advance.
While volunteering at the hospital that happens to be overseen by the local, shady Congressman Hanna, Betsy discovers that there is a patient tucked away on the 4th floor. Discretely cared for in the attic, is a mysterious man with no identity. Forbidden to become involved, Betsy sets out on a personal mission to uncover the truth behind the dying soldier and bring him “home” before he passes. But it is a race against the clocks. Can she unravel the truth in time, and why does Congressman Hanna refuse to acknowledge the patient’s existence?
While there is a correlation between Revenants and The Odyssey by Homer, I will not be making comparisons for this review. It has been too many years since I have read the poem, and I do not feel that it is necessary in order to find appreciation for this story.
This title begins at a somewhat slow but steady pace that is maintained throughout most of the story. My initial experience was a bit of an uphill struggle. But as events began to unfold and characters were explored, I found myself oddly enchanted with the story. There was something happening that felt important.
Set in the early 70s, we are introduced to Betsy and her family during a time of loss and war. The air is thick with grief as they endure the death of her older brother Nathan. The atmosphere and temperament are set accordingly creating a convincing set of individuals.
Betsy is a persuasive protagonist that makes relating to her somewhat easy. Young and full of that blissful ignorance we have all come to know as teenagers, she is also struggling. She reacts appropriately to the hurt she is feeling, deviating from her normal behaviour, lashing out through occasional means of rebellion. Her mother has withdrawn into a deep state of mourning, and has chosen to isolate herself. With the help of her father and younger brother, Betsy does the best she can to move forward. Move on.
Congressman Hanna can best be summed up as an abruptly shallow and manipulative politician. His presences work well as the main antagonist within a story that is set near an election and the end of a war.
The plot that is happening is one of great importance. I cannot pretend to be an expert in the history of the Vietnam War. But I am not unfamiliar to the aftermath and devastation that was left in its wake. Lives forever lost and altered. War is a time of fear and uncertainty. Many families will continue to battle the damage that has materialized as a result for years to come. And what about those lives that have been misplaced or forgotten?
Revenant (REV-ih-nunt) – n. a person returning after a long absence or death; a ghost. Adj. 1. Ghostly; returning, 2. Remembering something long forgotten.
Revenants: The Odyssey Home, approaches this very topic in a heartfelt and fascinating manner. Narrated in 3rd person, this is a journey that takes places through Betsy efforts to come to terms with her own loss. If she saves another, can she save herself? This an admirable and worthy tale, that unfortunately was still not without a few challenging moments and flaws.
The narration eventually lost consistency. Parts of the story began to muddle as memories of our mysterious soldier were introduced. I don’t feel that it would be fair to call the narration choppy, but transitioning was abrupt at times. The formatting during certain segments made for a slow and tedious read. Our soldier’s memories needed to be broken up more, if even presented at all. I felt his identity could have been revealed better through Betsy’s search without the necessity to add actual memories. It took something from the entire revelation process that was a crucial loss for me. There was a change that took place when we were exposed to his memories that created a shift in the entire story that did not appear to fit smoothly. I do feel that uncovering this history was of great value, but readers could have benefited from having the process completed in a more fluid manner.
While I struggle with a few areas of execution, this was a rewarding and compelling read. Kauffman’s writing is full of emotion and humanity. Implementing educated details and a solid knowledge of the time and events, Revenants: The Odyssey Home has a lingering effect that will remain with me for some time to come. I feel that this could be a great read for discussion groups.
*I want to thank the author for providing me with a copy of Revenants: The Odyssey Home. This review was in no way influenced and is my own, unbiased opinion.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2