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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Eleven Days: A Novel

Punch me in the gut, why don't you, Lea Carpenter? This is Eleven Days, a novel.

Jason has been missing for eleven days. He is a Special Operations Forces member of the Navy, and he was on a top-secret mission the night of Bin Laden's capture. Sara, his mother, is at home waiting for any news. She is alone; Jason's father died years before and he is her only child. She is kept company by one of Jason's colleagues, but she must go through the days with only her memories. What makes up who we are? How did we get here? What is the measure of one's sacrifice to our nation when that person is someone's child?

This absolutely incredible novel had me inconsolable on the 7 train. Tears. The ugly cry. The heaving. There was a point in time where I thought I was reading narrative non-fiction. I thought this was someone's real life. It is, I imagine, on some level--Carpenter tells us in her notes that on the night of Bin Laden's assassination there several other raids that occurred throughout the middle east. How many more were willing to sacrifice their lives for this country? Politics aside, it was incredibly affecting to read the tale of a man (a boy, really?) who believed in his country so much that he made the ultimate sacrifice. It makes my heart so proud yet so hurt.

The characters were so vivid and lifelike that I felt at times that I should go to Sara and help comfort her. After all, isn't she a dear friend of mine? Don't I know her, understand her? NO?!? SHE'S NOT REAL??? WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT'S FICTION??? This is a huge part of what aided in my delirious confusion about whether or not this was an investigation piece; oh, sure, even the cover says, "A Novel," but really, couldn't that not be fake? It's a testament to Carpenter's storytelling and the beauty that she has given us on the page that I felt so torn between fantasy and reality.

Every once in a while a book comes along that makes me feel unworthy of its goodness; this is that book for me. Its powerful storytelling, its incredible prose, and its humbling characters are enough to make the finest reader weep. A stunning piece of work.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

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