Review of Revenants: The Odyssey Home by Scott Kauffman

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Published: December 23rd, 2015 by Moonshine Cove Publishing | Series: N/A | Length: 306 pages | Genre: YA, historical fiction | Source: I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Summary from Goodreads:

ONLY BETSY CAN GET HIM HOME IN TIME; ONLY HE CAN BRING HER BACK BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.

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.

First of all, a big thank you to Scott Kauffman for sending me a copy of his book to read and review. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get to!

This book centers on Betsy, a young girl who lost her older brother in the Vietnam War and is now attempting to deal with her grief by working at a VA hospital, where she finds a hidden patient who fought in WWI.

This is proving to be a difficult book to review because I have so many mixed thoughts on it.

Overall, it was a good book. The two strongest points I think were that the plot was quite interesting and the characters were really well-written and well-developed. I especially liked the veteran characters because I think Kauffman did a great job making readers aware of the atrocities and injuries that veterans face. You really get a sense of how war affects their lives – both when they’re fighting in the war and when they’re back home to deal with the remnants.

The main problem I had with this and that I think did stop me from enjoying it as much as I would have was the mystery and suspense aspect of the book. Reading the synopsis, I felt like learning about this mysterious hidden patient was going to have me on the edge of my seat, frantically flipping pages, trying to figure out who he was before it was too late. But I didn’t feel that way about him. Maybe I’m terrible for thinking this way (let’s face it, I probably am), but because the patient was described as being SO close to dying, I just didn’t care if he got home to his family at all. I kind of felt like there was no point because, by the time he got reunited with them, he would die. Just as I was starting to feel invested in the mystery, we found out who he was and what his connection to this evil congressman was. So as the mystery started, it promptly ended.

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This brings me to another thing. The congressman was not nearly as threatening as I had hoped for. Again, the synopsis made it seem like it was super important for Betsy to keep her investigating secretive because if the congressman found it, it was game over. But in the book, every time the idea of the congressman founding out was brought up, it wasn’t in a “Betsy, you’re in danger” kind of way, but rather in a “the congressman will move the patient somewhere we can’t find him” way. This brings me back to the issue of not really caring if the patient got home – I didn’t, so I also didn’t care if the congressman sent him somewhere. He was sleazy for sure, but he missed the personality that would have truly made him feel like a villain.

Other than those things, though, this was a quite good book. There were some errors (my favorite: Betsy being called sweat pea instead of the much more endearing term, sweet pea), but I personally didn’t care all that much.

Like I mentioned, the characters were really great. I liked seeing Betsy’s development especially. We see her go from this very grief-stricken, depressed teenage girl to someone who is throwing herself into research that she’s not even sure will turn up any actual information, all to help get this man home to his family (if he even has any living family). There was definitely a lot of character development with her that I enjoyed watching.

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I also liked the few flashback scenes we got with Betsy and her brother, Nate. I actually kind of wish there had been more, just because I love reading about sibling relationships and I’m greedy haha Seeing the relationship they shared was nice and it helped you as a reader to understand just how devastating his death was for her.

One more thing that I really liked was how the book hints at the political corruption and greed that often is behind wars. It doesn’t delve into it much, but the veterans in the hospital make some comments about it. Even if it was just a few passing comments here and there, I still liked that it was brought up.

Just a quick note with a few trigger warnings for anyone who may need them. This obviously deals with some tough and violent topics. If you’re upset by violence or by war, I’d reconsider picking this up. Because a lot of the characters are veterans or people who lost family members in the war, there’s also mental health topics that are touched on, including suicide. So again, if that’s something that may be upsetting or triggering for you, reconsider reading this.

All in all, Scott Kauffman did a good job of crafting a believable and interesting novel that touches on the effects war has on soldiers. Where the book fell short was in its mystery and suspense regarding the patient that’s been hidden away in the hospital’s attic. This is still a good historical fiction novel though and if it sounds like something you might enjoy, I’d recommend giving it a try.


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