Reviews for Waiting for Eden

by Elliot Ackerman

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Ackerman's (2017 National Book Award finalist for Dark at the Crossing) latest might be just three and a half hours long, but the dramatic effects will surely last longer. -MacLeod Andrews-his voice slightly growly, controlled enough as if control is necessary-narrates from the omniscient viewpoint of a dead man, waiting for his best friend to die. Eden Malcolm has been reduced to basically a 70-pound torso, trapped in a San Antonio burn center, sent home from Iraq after surviving an IED blast that killed his best friend-who now tells both their stories, along with that of Eden's wife, Mary, who's spent most of the past three years by his hospital bed. Before the latest deployment, before the explosion, Eden and Mary had been desperate to conceive, Mary more so because a baby was supposed to keep Eden home. Over the "days, weeks, months, years, lying there, not being allowed to just die," the three-part past, the two-part present, the solo future to come (albeit with child) get chillingly revealed-of love, hope, betrayal, desperation, dedication, and suffocation. -VERDICT A superb novel further enhanced by an exemplary reader; a timely acquisition for all libraries. ["With sparse prose and a deft pen, Ackerman writes a profound meditation on the liminal space between our past, present, and future": LJ 9/1/18 starred review of the Knopf hc; 2018 LJ Best Literary Fiction.]-Terry Hong, -Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In his previous novels (Green on Blue, In the Dark at the Crossing), Ackerman, a National Book Award finalist and decorated veteran, attempted to view contemporary war through empathy and conflicting perspectives, with his characters ranging from an orphan forced to fight in the middle of Afghanistan's civil war to an Arab American crossing into Syria to battle Assad. Here, his outlook expands beyond the confines of national borders to the afterlife. Badly burned and paralyzed from an IED on the battlefield, Eden silently and anxiously awaits his own death as his pregnant wife, Mary, sits dutifully by his side and prepares for the birth of their child. Struggling between the decision to release her husband from this life or cling to every last day, Mary's world begins to unravel into a tempest of despair and hope. Spanning the next three years, the alternating narrative jumps between present and past through the memories and stories of a posthumous and omniscient narrator, Eden's friend, who died in the same explosion. VERDICT With sparse prose and a deft pen, Ackerman writes a profound meditation on the liminal space between our past, present, and future. [See Prepub Alert, 4/9/18; "Editors' Fall Picks," LJ 8/18.]-Joshua Finnell, Colgate Univ., Hamilton, NY Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Wounded terribly in Iraq three years ago, a soldier awaits his death in a burn center in San Antonio, and we learn of his fate through a surprising, unconventional, and risky narrative strategy.Eden is the soldier who just barely survived when his Humvee hit a pressure plate in the Hamrin Valley, and the narrator is a fellow soldier who was killed in the same explosionand who considers Eden's fate worse than his own. Because the narrator is dead, he is granted a kind of omniscience that would be denied someone living; for example, he has access to what passes through Eden's mind even as Eden is immobilized and practically catatonic. We learn that he and Eden had been friends in the service, had taken some of the same special training, and had been deployed together. Through a series of flashbacks we also learn of the narrator's attraction to Eden's wife, Mary, who in the present is grieving over Eden's hopelessly burned body and is worried about exposing her 3-year-old daughter to Eden's insentience. Mary is faced with the morally difficult decision of whether or not to release Eden from his suffering, a strategy urged on her by Gabe, a gruff but caring nurse. Ackerman skillfully weaves his story across chapters that alternate between the grim reality of the burn center and Eden's more robust past, where we discover that he and Mary had difficulty conceiving a child, a tension exacerbated by the narrator's growing attraction to Mary. We're informed that Mary and the narrator inhabit a "space that is empty and white, waiting for [Eden]....We both wonder what will happen to us when he finally goes." The poignancy arises out of the fact that they both love Eden in their own way.An affecting, spare, and unusual novel. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

A National Book Award finalist for Dark at the Crossing, former Marine Ackerman tells the heartbreaking story of a relationship caught up in the aftermath of war. Eden and Mary are happily married with a child on the way when Eden is deployed for his second tour in Iraq. After an accident leaves Eden's best friend dead and Eden barely alive, he returns home on a stretcher covered in severe burns and is unable to return to the life he'd led before. Mary, meanwhile, cares for their infant daughter and must wrestle with the hard decision of whether to take Eden off of life support. She is full of resentment and guilt, unable to forgive herself for letting him leave for war. Eden's best friend narrates-caught in limbo between this world and the next-and hovers over their lives, connecting to both in unexpected ways. He offers a bird's-eye view of the pain and suffering of both Mary and Eden as they struggle separately to make peace with Eden's imminent death. This is a deeply touching exploration of resentment, longing, and loss among those who volunteer to fight and the loved ones left behind. (Sept.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* In this gorgeously constructed short novel, Ackerman (Dark at the Crossing, 2017) focuses on a marriage between a soldier, Eden Malcolm, and his wife, Mary. In taut, detached prose that is rich in symbolism, the novel begins with Eden's dramatic return from Iraq, where he has been injured beyond all recognition. Mary comes immediately to his side, heavily pregnant. The scene of much of the novel is the San Antonio burn unit in which Eden resides. In short sections that flit between Eden before the explosion and his existence after, Ackerman, in a mysterious narrative voice, describes how Mary navigates grief, loss, motherhood, and what it means to be married to someone barely alive. Both Eden's and Mary's fears and foibles are richly explored to create a deeply moving portrayal of how grief can begin even while our loved ones still cling to life. In this unique Afghanistan and Iraq Wars novel, which joins a growing genre that includes Kevin Powers' Yellow Birds (2012) and Phil Klay's Redeployment (2014), Ackerman's focus on a single family makes the costs of war heartbreakingly clear, as does his drawing emotion and import from the smallest of acts with incredible skill. Many will read this wonderful novel in a single sitting.--Alexander Moran Copyright 2018 Booklist