“You may come to learn in your old age that there is no evil in this world more evil than that of aloneness. No man so evil. To be alone as to be excluded even from the love of God. No price is too steep for me to pay not to be. “
Author: Scott Kauffman Published: 2015 Pages: 302
I have been a little underwhelmed with the books I have read recently, and so, when I picked up Revenants, I tried not to get my hopes up. The story is set in 1984 and follows Betsy, a seventeen year old whose brother died in Vietnam. Wounded by her loss and determined not to let it get the better of her, Betsy finds herself, as a result of bad behaviour, having to help out at the local hospital which rehabilitates soldiers. At first she is shocked by their injuries; from disfigured faces to amputated limbs, Betsy is suddenly given a stern wake up call. Slowly, she begins to find her feet at the hospital, but when she notices some suspicious activity from one of the nurses, she clocks on to rumours about a secret patient on the fourth floor. Unable to quench her curiosity, Betsy becomes hellbent on discovering the identity of this mysterious patient, and more importantly finding a way to get him home.
It’s not often you read a book and it makes you realise that the writing you thought was good in the previous book you read, was nothing compared with what you are reading now. Kauffman writes in such a detailed manner that I found myself fully immersed in the narrative. The dialogue was very plausible, plus I loved the way that he wrote Randy’s dialogue in an African-American vernacular, it really reminded me of Huckleberry Finn and The Help, both of which I love. I also liked the descriptions of war, they reinforced the harsh reality of conflict and were heartbreakingly profound and raw.
The protagonist, Betsy, was excellent. I adored her gumption and I admired her spirit even when everything seemed hopeless, her determination to find the truth was really heart-warming. I felt for her having to mourn her brother and thanks to Kauffman’s descriptions, I found that Betsy’s grief became mine and I wanted her to be okay. The other characters were also brilliant in their own right, all showing beautifully the resilience of the human spirit and also what the idea of family meant to them.
I also love reading novels where the villains are not monsters but manipulative and conniving, almost too human to warrant the destruction they are causing, making them all the more evil. War narratives often have this trope because they describe the pain and loss war can bring but remind us that it was caused by our own species.
I certainly would read this author again, he really is a great writer and this book was a heart-warming reminder of the struggles of grief and the impact of war. Kauffman successfully showed the ricochets that the violence in a far away country could have on one town thousands of miles away and this harsh truth was not all that far away from the reality of conflicts today.
Thank you to the author Scott Kauffman for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
(SIDE NOTE: This book made me come to the realisation that I really enjoy war narratives; as Birdsong is one of my favourite books, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise but I liked that enjoying this book reaffirmed my love for that genre.)