Nancy McKibben's Reviews > Eleven Days

Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter
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bookshelves: literary-fiction, reviewed
Recommended for: readers who like thoughtful treatments of complex topics

Eleven Days
Lea Carpenter

Eleven Days is, as I suspected from the blurb, a harrowing book, but I was curious to read it, because, like every mother, I have wondered what it would be like to have a son in the military in harm’s way. The protagonists of the novel are Sara and her only son Jason, who is a member of the Navy Special Teams, and the eleven days of the title refer to the period of time when her son goes missing during a military operation.

Of course, Sara doesn’t want her only son to join the military at all, but she adjusts to it, as she must.
Her increasing interest in all things military ran parallel to her son’s becoming an officer. With Jason at the Naval Academy, she got back to D. C. - and Virginia - regularly. She would meet friends for lunch. They were all amused to see how she had changed. . . She was proud of her son. . . But that wasn’t really what was changing in her. What was mission-driven and relevant was what had always been: her love for her boy. Had he decided to join the circus, she might have developed an obsession for elephants.
Much of the novel develops the characters in flashbacks, since Jason is in absentia for most of the real time. We learn that Jason’s decision to join the military rather than go to Harvard sprang from his reaction to the 9/11 tragedy, although his relationship with his mostly absent father was another determining factor.

Jason describes his training to his mother in a letter:
I never thought about certain things before . . I never thought about how best to brace myself against a blow. I never thought about how best to make contact with another person, especially is that person is threatening me. And I never thought about what they call our Inner Warrior. . . It is the voice you hear that tells you not just what to do but what not to do, too. . .

Warfare is not like “shoot-‘em-ups” as Dad would say. There is a precision to all of our actions. Having the guns and knowing what to do with them is a little like having access to a new language. And there are lots of challenging environments where saying less is more. Restraint might not be the first thing next to Godliness, but it’s close. Restraint is part of the ethos.
Jason and Sara are thoughtful, admirable characters, and it is enlightening to view the war and special operations through the eyes of each. The author includes a hefty bibliography, and she not only has done her research, but she has managed to put the reader into the minds and hearts of a warrior (a term that Jason uses of himself) and his mother.


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Reading Progress

November 1, 2013 – Started Reading
November 2, 2013 – Finished Reading
November 4, 2013 – Shelved
November 4, 2013 – Shelved as: literary-fiction
November 4, 2013 – Shelved as: reviewed

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