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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 took the cover photo on this post, it is a replica of the Vietnam Veterans memorial statue in Washington, DC.
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