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Book tip: "Waiting for Eden," Elliot Ackerman

Book tip

Waiting for Eden

Elliot Ackerman

With a decided nod to Dalton Trumbo's "Johnny Got His Gun," Elliot Ackerman has delivered a deeply melancholic short novel, "Waiting for Eden," about a love triangle wherein the nuances play out against the ghastly realities and repercussions of war. The title character, a career soldier, is bedridden in a San Antonio burn hospital after miraculously surviving an IED explosion in Afghanistan. He's physically frozen — a charred torso void that stares with minimal brain activity around his room. But does his mind work more than the doctors know? His wife refuses to leave his side, sending their infant daughter to live with a grandmother. The ongoing realities and crucial backstory elements are narrated by the ghost of Eden's best friend — a fellow soldier who died in the same explosion. While Trumbo's classic was angrily written as a fiendish and deliberate anti-war horror novel, "Waiting for Eden" doesn't make any overt statements about war. It's a story about love and loneliness, expectations and desperation as a result of war. Ackerman, whose novel "Dark at the Crossing" was shortlisted for a National Book Award, is a writer with a deliberate but evocative style — Hemingway with an absinthe flash. And he knows of what he writes: he spent eight years as a medal-winning Marine Corps Special Ops team leader.

— Rick Koster


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