Carpenter, Lee, (c. 2013). Eleven Days. Alfred A. Knopf. 288 pages , $24.95.
Learning that her Navy Seal son has gone missing, Sara tries to obtain information through former contacts while reliving the choices they made leading up to this situation.
After losing her husband on an overseas mission, single-mother Sara is devastated when she hears that her only son has gone missing from his Navy Seals’ unit while involved in a covert mission. The story takes place over the eleven days of waiting that Sara endures. Her story and that of her son, Jason, unfolds in a sparse, clear text told through Sara’s memories and Jason’s letters home. The letters show his rise into leadership and the decisions made allowing him to join such an elite military unit. With great emotion and succinct prose, Carpenter successfully takes the reader through an intricate narrative that depicts yet another side-effect of war.
Eleven Days is an intense debut novel that realistically shows the stress of having a son at war, not knowing what he is doing, where he is or if he is even still alive. Told from both Sara’s and Jason’s perspectives, the story deals with far more than grief; it shows the development of a warrior, the ramifications of an absent parent and the overwhelming influence of a war-torn world. In its sparse and intense prose, Carpenter pulls the reader further into the story by not only fully developing the key players but also having support characters that are rich and interesting and successfully play into the emotion. This novel is not full of defiance or anti-war rhetoric but it does not need to be for the realism of the full impact of war to be clearly seen.
The Last Samurai by Helen Dewitt.
The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich
NPR Great Read of 2013
Book Discussion Questions:
1. A mother’s grief when her son goes to war is a common theme. What makes this debut novel different?
2. “A myth is a fiction that matters.” (p. 241) How do myth’s play into the story?
3. How are Sara and Jason affected by David’s absence? Separately and together?
4. In the Kill House, Jason makes the decision to go back for the baby. What are the literal and symbolic consequences of that decision?
Reasons for selection:
This is another selection from Nancy Pearl’s “Books That Make Great Gifts” list presented in December 2013. I have yet to be disappointed with any selection. Plus, I always like picking up a recommended debut novel in hopes that I will enjoy it and it will be the first of many. I also chose it because I am a fan of stories about the elite military forces. I am intrigued by the discipline needed to be part of one of these teams. I was first introduced to the Navy Seals in Suzanne Brockman’s romance series about Team 16. Eleven Days is not the same kind of read as Brockman but I was prepared for that and was captivated by the story.