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.

Three Servicemen, Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica

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

Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

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