REVENANTS-The Odyssey Home: a book review

Most people know and understand what war does to countries- changing boundaries, toppling governments, destroying infrastructure, wasting the land, bankrupting economies. Revanants speaks to the human cost for communities, families, and individuals-driving families apart, killing dreams, interrupting plans, wounding bodies and emotions, and destroying hope. On a global scale, war may be justified but in Revenants it is futile, wreaking havoc on these people’s lives.

REVENANTS-The Odyssey Home

By Scott Kauffman
Published by Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC, 2015

When I started this book I didn’t know what revenant means; the author waits until chapter 33 to tell us.

“A revenant can be someone long forgotten and now remembered,or someone returning after a long absence; it can also mean a ghost.”

Note: the photos in this post are from my private collection and are not affiliated with the author or the book

The ghost in this case is a nameless disabled World War I veteran who never came home to his family. The main character, a 15 year old girl Betsy, sets out to learn his name, and thus to get him home before he becomes a literal ghost.

World War I happened in Europe from 1914 to 1918 although the United States didn’t enter until 1917. This story is set in 1973, a time when there were still many living WWI veterans who were by then in their 70’s and 80’s. In 1973 the United States was embroiled in another war, the Vietnam war.

My husband served in the Army in Vietnam and we have studied that war extensively, so we were surprised to learn the character Nathan, Betsy’s older brother, is based on a real person, who was the uncle of Mr. Kaufman’s late wife.

Captain Richard M Rees

Captain Richard M Rees was killed in action and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on December 15, 1973 while performing duties as a member of a Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) team in South Vietnam, as agreed to at the Paris Peace Talks. The unarmed team came under attack in an area near Saigon while searching for the remains of an Army crewman who was presumed to have died when his helicopter was shot down in a rice paddy nearby. The site was thought to be secure and authorized, but later the Vietcong denied having been notified of the team’s activities.

rice paddy with people in asian hats and a water buffaclo
a rice paddy in Vietnam

Three days after the American delegate to the Paris peace talks threw Nathan’s blood-stained jacket across the negotiation table and the day after the honor guard lowered his casket into the frozen earth at the cemetery, his Christmas box came. The doorbell rang and I ran stocking-footed downstairs where Mom slumped against the front door crumpled faced and still dressed in her flannel nightgown, the night’s snow wisping over her pale legs, Nathan’s box on the porch behind the postman who knelt beside her.

Betsy, in the book

After Nathan is killed in action in Vietnam, Betsy, her younger brother, and their heartbroken parents cope with his loss in differing ways. Betsy’s grief leads her to become a candy striper volunteer at a local VA (Veterans Administration) hospital, where her life intersects with an elderly wounded veteran in a complex and compelling way.

soldiers at a remote military base
My husband Raymond, upper left, served at LZ Cindy (landing zone), near the village of TraBong

Into this mystery, Scott Kaufman inserts a menagerie of other characters- a head nurse with a secret, an assortment of wounded veterans, a pot dealing hospital orderly, and a conniving politician with a longsuffering wife. He weaves a complex story through which their lives intersect. And often collide.

Most people know and understand what war does to countries- changing boundaries, toppling governments, destroying infrastructure, wasting the land, bankrupting economies. Revanants speaks to the human cost for communities, families, and individuals-driving families apart, killing dreams, interrupting plans, wounding bodies and emotions, and destroying hope. On a global scale, war may be justified but in Revenants it is futile, wreaking havoc on these people’s lives.

American flag waving at a Vietnam Veterans Wall replica
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall replica

The narrative reads as if it had been written in the 1970s with the vernacular and historical references of that era (which I can attest to since I lived it). The author bluntly expresses his disdain for wars and the governments that wage them. This may offend some readers, as may the way he portrays and refers to ethnic characters, especially the lone Black character (referred to as a Negro, as would have been the acceptable word in 1973). While this sounds offensive to 21st century ears, it helps create the setting for the events and enhance the impact of the book’s message.

So with that caveat, I recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn about and understand that difficult era in our history, through which many of us spent our youth. The WWI veterans are all long deceased and the Vietnam vets are now in their 70s. We can only hope they will eventually find the respect and peace that the “Great War” veterans were denied.

The author, Scott Kauffman

Scott Kauffman is an attorney in Irvine, California where he focuses practice on white collar crime and tax litigation with his clients providing him endless story fodder. He wrote a legal suspense novel IN DEEPEST CONSEQUENCES and just this year released SAVING THOMAS. He graduated from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio and was in the upper ten percent of his class at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon .

As a NetGalley reviewer, I received a digital copy of this book and agreed to write a review.

NETGALLEY MEMBER PROFESSIONAL READER

exploring the HEART of remembrance

Thanks for reading my review of this book and for remembering and appreciating the sacrifices of real veterans and their families. If you’ve never visited a military memorial or museum, I encourage you to do so. Whereever you live, there is likely one near by

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Dr Aletha

Raymond published a book about his combat experience in Vietnam. You can read it on any Amazon Kindle E-reader or a free Kindle app on any device.

Battle for Tra Bong Vietnam: Events and Aftermath

Christians on social media-the purpose, the perils, the promise

Words have power, so it matters how we use them. If we make a mistake and share something false, misleading, or inaccurate, then we should correct it. If warranted, delete it, and explain why.  And apologize, if warranted.

Last year, I published a post about social media use, alarmed at the proliferation of misinformation, disinformation, and too much good information. I saw people, myself included, post and repost items that seemed good on the surface but with a careful look were distortions of truth, outdated, false, or self-serving rather than helpful to others. We were being contentious, disrespectful, divisive, and anything but “social”.

“Fake news” has been an issue with social media, but in 2020 it became a secondary pandemic with inaccurate, misleading, and false posts about coronavirus, lockdowns, public health, the presidential election, riots, protests, racism, etc. Due to the popularity and widespread use of social media sites and personal blogs we have all become “influencers”, like it or not.

In that post I suggested 9 strategies to share responsibly on social media.

  1. Post with purpose.
  2. Express yourself (not someone wlse)
  3. Consider the source when reading or sharing .
  4. Confirm the facts-who, when, where, what, how, why
  5. Differentiate facts from opinion
  6. Share videos with value
  7. Report accurate numbers and statistics
  8. Pause before sharing photos: are they real, are they yours?
  9. Share facts, not fear.
graphical depiction of electronic devices, paper, pencil, Bible, coffee mug

What about the Bible?

In my posts I approached these as secular problems, and they are. But even though I have a strong Christian faith, I had not thought of the spiritual implications; that is until I read a book by author N.T. Wright, Broken Signposts.

N.T. Wright, Broken Signposts

Professor Wright, or Tom as he is called, is an English New Testament scholar, theologian, and Anglican bishop. He was the bishop of Durham from 2003 to 2010, then research professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College in the University of St Andrews in Scotland until 2019, when he became a senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall at the University of Oxford.

If all that sounds academic and stuffy, he is not. Besides reading this book, I have listened to several videos and podcasts by him, and outside his academic pursuits, he is quite down to earth.

So getting back to the book, Broken Signposts:How Christianity Makes Sense of the World, I gained a different perspective about social media when I read this passage (which is edited for brevity)

man looking at a phone screen

“Idols always promise a bit extra-or perhaps a lot extra…start off as something good, a good part of God’s creation…then it attracts attention and begins to offer more than it can appropriately deliver-it starts to demand sacrifices.

Idols are addictive. We know a good deal about the forms of addiction in our society, far fewer people are addicted to cigarettes than 50 years ago, but the same kind of compulsive behavior and often the same kind of destructive behavior, is now associated with not only alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs, but with our electronic systems:smartphones, social media, Facebook, and so on.

These can become self-destructive when people portray themselves in a particular light and then struggle to live up to the image they have created.

Technology can of course be a blessing, bringing people together in all sorts of ways, but in the last analysis real relationships with real people are a form of freedom. Half-relationships with a screen personality can be a step toward slavery. “

What do others think?

So then I wondered what other Christian thinkers, theologians, pastors, or authors were saying about social media. I found several Christian denominations have specific social media guidelines for their clergy and churchs to follow. (I only looked at Christian organizations but it is likely other faiths have similar committments to responsible social media use.)

But what about lay persons I wondered, does the church or other Christian leaders offer guidance? The answer is yes.

Here are links and a brief synopsis of some of the sources I found that address how a Christian can and should reponsibly use social media.

A CHRISTIAN CODE OF ETHICS FOR USING SOCIAL MEDIA

The first I found in a Facebook post by a relative by marriage who is an Anglican priest. He shared a link to A Christian Code of Ethics for Using Social Media of the Anglican Church in North America.

The following is a simple code of ethics (5 Questions) for the follower of Jesus to consider before one clicks the “enter” button. It is intended for the follower of Jesus to remember that even in cyber-space we are witnesses (either for good or for bad) for Jesus Christ modeling a life which is supposed to emulate him.

hands keyboarding

A Christian Ethic for Social Media

More ideas came from the Denver Institute for Faith and Work. Denver Institute for Faith & Work is an educational nonprofit dedicated to forming men and women to serve God, neighbor, and society through their work.

The post at this link shares a video by Denver Institute founder Jeff Haanen in which he shares insights to answer the question

In the age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, how can the Bible guide our use of social media?

Biblical Principles for Social Media

This is a blog post shared by Christopher Cone, Th.D, Ph.D, Ph.D, who serves as President and CEO of AgathonEDU Educational Group and leads Vyrsity and Colorado Biblical University. Dr. Cone has served as a President (Vyrsity, Colorado Biblical University, Calvary University, Tyndale Theological Seminary), a Chief Academic Officer (Southern California Seminary), and as a Research Professor (Vyrsity, Colorado Biblical University, Calvary University, Southern California Seminary), as well as several pastoral roles and teaching positions at the University of North Texas, North Central Texas College, and Southern Bible Institute.

Dr. Cone writes

there is an even more valuable question we can consider with respect to social media: what would Jesus do – or more precisely, what would Jesus have us do with social media? We certainly would be unwise to retreat from social media – if we desire to interact with people, social media provide fantastic tools to do that. Paul cautions believers not to disengage from the world (1 Corinthians 5:9-10), and again warns believers not to be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2). One principle in view here is to be deliberate about using tools like social media to accomplish specific (His) purposes, and not to fall into the trap of being taken captive by those tools.

Dr. Cone

The American Values Coalition has a mission of “growing a community of Americans empowered to lead with truth, reject extremism and misinformation, and defend democracy.” On the blog, writer Ian IcCloud suggests telling stories as a way to avoid the polarization that he calls “harmful to American civic life.”

3 Ways to Combat Extreme Polarization

We all need to be better at telling stories and, more specifically, better at listening to the stories of others. Stories have the power to draw us out of ourselves and move us to care for others in ways we wouldn’t otherwise choose or know to choose.

But stories only work as an end to polarization if we’re willing to admit that we can change. More bluntly, stories will only work if we are ready to accept that we could be wrong and in need of change.

15 Things Christians Should Stop Doing on Social Media

Writing for Relevant Magazine, Tim Arndt, lists 15 rules under the headings of Attitude, Distractions, Image, Discernments, and Nastiness. And a “bonus” rule

It seems like having a civil disagreement has become a rare phenomenon, but we need to learn how to disagree with charity.On social media, I’ve had disagreements with people on a wide range of topics like abortion, atheism and racial issues. I try my best to be civil and if the other person is too, I thank them for that.

Tim Arndt

Social media has changed the world and the very nature of communication. We are all able to broadcast our every thought and opinion at an unprecedented scale. But Christians must not forget that everywhere we go, we represent our savior.

Tim Arndt

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16, ESV

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

THINK before you post or share

Words have power, so it matters how we use them. If we make a mistake and share something false, misleading, or inaccurate, then we should correct it. If warranted, delete it, and explain why.  And apologize, if warranted.

Harvard School of Public Health recommends we THINK twice before posting or sharing on social media-

  • Is it TRUTHFUL?
  • Is it HELPFUL?
  • Is it INSPIRING?
  • Is it NECESSARY?
  • Is it KIND?

Using Our Online Conversations for Good

Explore a Christian viewpoint on social media use with this book by Daniel Darling, an author and pastor. (this is an affiliate link)

Sadly, many Christians are fueling online incivility. Others, exhausted by perpetual outrage and shame-filled from constant comparison, are leaving social media altogether.

So, how should Christians behave in this digital age? Is there a better way? 

Daniel Darling believes we need an approach that applies biblical wisdom to our engagement with social media, an approach that neither retreats from modern technology nor ignores the harmful ways in which Christians often engage publicly. 

 In short, he believes that we can and should use our online conversations for good

Amazon

Be Kind Online: Ten Rules for Christians in a Digital Age 

exploring the HEART of responsible social media use

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Please share this post on your social media sites so together we can make the social world safer, friendlier, and trustworthy. Thanks.

Dr Aletha

cheesy-free faith-focused stock photos

Lightstock-quality photos and graphics site- here. 

(This is an affiliate link)

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