Book Review: Revenants by Scott Kauffman

Book Review: Revenants by Scott Kauffman

“Life happened. Real life, Betsy, not storybook life. Not life where it all makes sense on the final page, but as it’s truly lived, where there is no sense but the sense with which we delude ourselves so we can keep going on for one more day.” -Kauffman

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Revenants- The Odyssey Home by Scott Kauffman

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Publisher’s blurb (taken from Amazon): “A grief-stricken candy-striper serving in a VA hospital following her brother’s death in Viet Nam struggles to return home an anonymous veteran of the Great War against the skullduggery of a congressman who not only controls the hospital as part of his small-town fiefdom but knows the name of her veteran. A name if revealed would end his political ambitions and his fifty-year marriage. In its retelling of Odysseus’ journey, Revenants casts a flickering candle upon the charon toll exacted not only from the families of those who fail to return home but of those who do.”

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I received a free copy of ‘Revenants’ from the author in exchange for an honest review. For more information, see my review policy page.

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What I liked: 

I’m a sucker for stories that jump back and forth in time. I love when different time periods are tied together by circumstance, and the characters have to unravel the connections. Not only is this interesting from a story-telling standpoint, but I like the portrayal of universal human experience. It doesn’t matter what year it is, people and their emotional experiences are the same. Wars damage the mind. Heartbreak stays with you forever. Life is messy. These ideas have been true for all of human history. That universality really appeals to me, and Kauffman handles it gracefully.

‘Revenants’ isn’t an in-your-face dramatic war story. It’s more of a subdued, slow reveal. If you aren’t in the mood for that sort of atmospheric book, the pace might be a struggle. This book is quiet and unassuming, and the details unfold slowly, but that added to the melancholic feel of the whole thing. I happened to be in the mood for just such a book. Kauffman’s writing is detailed and thoughtful- he handles heavy, depressing topics gently, which made the entire book a quick read.

What I didn’t like:

I wasn’t super invested in the main character. I didn’t actively dislike her, but I found myself more interested in the people around her. On a related note, I’m not sure how I feel about the congressman character. He was easy to hate (which was nice, haha) but I also found him somewhat one-dimensional.

The ending left me feeling very conflicted. I won’t give anything away, but after all of the hardships detailed in the book, the conclusion was heartbreaking. I think it’s realistic, and I think it was true to the characters, but that doesn’t mean I was happy about it 🙂

Would I recommend this book:

Yes! Like I said before, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for something action-packed, but I do think it’s a story that would appeal to a wide audience.

**Sensitive content warning: ‘Revenants’ does go into some detail about war and bodily injury. I didn’t think the descriptions were overly gruesome, but they were gritty enough to feel real. I would feel comfortable letting a young teenager read this book, but as always, it totally depends on your personal tolerance and preference.**

Additional thoughts:

The main character’s story takes place in the early 1970’s. With that in mind, there were some gender/racial situations that felt a little uncomfortable, but they did feel accurate to the time period. Interestingly, Betsy and her family are never physically described in any great detail, which I think lends itself to the universality thing I was talking about before. They could be any American family.

‘Revenants’ made my heart hurt. It illustrates how unfair life can be, and lets that thought seep into every corner of the story without necessarily resolving it. This is true anyway, but especially true anytime war, or the military is involved. I can’t say this was an uplifting or happy read, but I do think it’s worthwhile- just be prepared with some tissues.

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