Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter

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Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: An affecting, big impact debut novel that allows us to walk in the shoes of some of the mothers awaiting the return of their military children through the touching, fictionalised story of one.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: June 2013
Publisher: Two Roads
ISBN: 978-1444776232

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Sara raised Jason alone; even when she was with his father it felt as if she was a lone parent. Jason's father always seemed to be away doing something indefinable abroad; then he disappeared leaving her completely. Two years later Jason's father was dead. However Jason is a lad to be proud of, never giving Sara a moment's trouble and now a member of the elite US Navy SEALS. Now he's missing in action… Now she has to hang on and hope.

Here American writer Lea Carpenter has produced a phenomenon that I never cease to be amazed and cheered by: an exceptional debut novel. In a style reminiscent of authors like Lionel Shriver and Noah Hawley, Lea wrote this novel while pondering an age old dilemma: why nations send their sons to war and how mothers can stand letting them go.

Though cleverly manipulated alternating chapters we learn of Sara and Jason's past through each of their viewpoints as we also live each moment of Sara's current wait over the eleven days between hearing of Jason's disappearance and the resolution.

As we compare Sarah's and Jason's ideas and reactions to events from their family history we marvel at how differently the same thing can make two people feel, each unaware of the other's feelings despite their familial closeness. For this is a novel in which feelings and emotions become almost tangible (especially Sara's) but tangible without the slightest trace of mawkishness or sentimentality – an achievement indeed.

Meanwhile the narrative is interspersed with facts offered, conversely, without emotion or political slant; we overlay these by ourselves. While we read casualty stats we realise afresh (independently of Lea) these are actually individuals with their own stories that feed like rivers into the nation's story. We learn about the US Navy SEALS' origin, born from the inadequacy of water disembarkations during the darker days of World War II. Not mindless killers but highly intelligent, their individuality being channelled and subsumed as all is 'The Team' for 'The Team'. Their choice being that of elite forces everywhere: the stark options of conscience or survival and their intelligence causing them to come to terms with each individual incident where that choice has to be exercised.

As for the question that sent Lea down the novel's path initially, there are probably as many answers as there have been wars, conflicts and governments. In some ways, the only difference Eleven Days makes is to personalise it, to show how awful being a parent at home is, if awful isn't too much of an understatement. In the run of things the novel's contribution may not sound a lot, but people change things and novels change people so who knows?

If you enjoyed this, try The Good Father by Noah Hawley, another excellent page-turner of a book about the difficulties of parenting adults.

Buy Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter at Amazon.com.


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