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

Two Words That Still Change My Life

When I watched the war in Vietnam on TV news, I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never imagined that I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would help me meet my husband, and create a family that brings me joy every day.

I’ve shared this post several times, and every time I’ve heard from someone, usually unexpected, who tells me the story speaks to them in a similar way.Like

  • A couple I’ve never met in Australia
  • A long ago friend I had not talked to since we were teenagers
  • A young mother who was a former work colleague.
  • One of my best childhood friends

I didn’t know  any of their stories before, but learning we share a similar bond brought new meaning to our relationship.

If you are someone who shares a story similar to ours, I hope you will contact me. My husband and I would love to join our hearts to yours wherever you are. Perhaps these words will change your lifves too. .

a couple sitting at a table by a window with an ocean view

Here is the post, originally called

Two Words That Changed My Life

In college I participated in Chi Alpha, a faith-based student group. When I started dating  a young man of a different faith, he enjoyed coming to the gatherings with me and my friends liked him. We were fond of each other, but his feelings grew stronger and more serious than mine.

To be fair, I ended the relationship. We parted amicably but he left our group; it was awkward for both of us. Although the breakup was best of us both, I grieved  the loss of our friendship.

One evening several of us were talking when a new member of our group joined us. We knew little about him other than he had recently left the Army and started attending the university.

He looked at me and said, “Where is John tonight?” (not his real name) No one spoke as everyone looked from me to him and back to me. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know we had broken up.

Finally, one of the girls softly explained, “They aren’t dating anymore.”

Everyone remained silent, I suppose assuming I was upset . I wasn’t upset but I realized everyone else was uncomfortable. I didn’t want our new friend to feel bad about the mistake, so I tried to make light of it. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head.

“That’s right,” I said smiling.  “I’m available.”

With that, everyone, including me, laughed. Thinking back now, I wonder why I said that. It was out of character for me, a confirmed introvert, and besides, I did not need or want another romantic relationship. I was planning to attend medical school, and romance did not fit into that plan.

However, the young man took me seriously, calling me a few days later to ask for a date. And despite my reluctance to become involved, I said yes.

“What harm could it do?” I thought. “Why sit in the dorm alone on Friday night?”

Two more words

That night I learned about Raymond’s past. He had served for three years in the Army . He had already earned a bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school with his veteran’s benefits. I casually asked if he had been stationed overseas. He said yes- he had served in Germany and in Vietnam. I did not realize those words also would change my life.

soldiers at a remote military base
various scenes from the firebase where Raymond was stationed in VietNam; I understood nothing about what happened there.
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