Disclaimer: I got a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
When I first read the synopsis for Revenants, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. The story begins with Betsy, a teenager with an older brother in the armed forces who dies while serving his country. While dealing with her grief, Betsy gets into trouble by using alcohol and other means to cope. Her consequence to be able to continue in school is to volunteer her summer at the local veteran hospital as a candy striper. While working in the hospital, Betsy stumbles on a secret – an elderly veteran, kept away on the fourth floor with no name or record of who he is and where he comes from. Revenants chronicles Betsy and a whole cast of characters trying to solve the mystery and bring this long lost veteran home. In my experience reading the novel, I felt like there are two main story lines here which become inexplicably tied together: the lost soldier and how Betsy contends with her grief.
The main character Betsy goes through a lot. Her grief from the loss of her brother is the main driving force of her decline and consequently why she ends up volunteering in the veterans hospital as a candy striper. Is it just me or does that seem like a cruel consequence?! For a girl who just lost her brother to the war must now spend her days at a hospital, reminding her at every turn the horrific effects of the war. Wow. As expected, Betsy upon arriving at the hospital on her first day of work, runs out of the hospital in tears. I really appreciated the character development of Betsy in particular. How she struggles in coping with her loss through her relationships with other veteran patients. How she becomes obsessed with the mystery patient. How she finds resolve in her grief, but still carries the weight of her brother to the end.
The Odyssey by Homer is a…central?…idea to the whole novel. I question central because besides being mentioned sporadically throughout the story, it really only comes up at the end. I am most likely missing references throughout the book because of my unfamiliarity with The Odyssey (I read it maybe 7 years ago), but my expectation was a more integrated experience. Because of this, the section about The Odyssey at the end felt very abrupt to me. I want to reiterate this simply could have been my own experience with the book and with The Odyssey and even though this did help inform my final rating, please take it with a grain of salt.
Revenants at the core for me was a story of grief and loss mixed with a political commentary on the treatment of veterans in the United States. I was drawn in by the writing style for the first half of the novel. I though the dialogue was intriguing and the pieces of the story the author chose to share was on point, flowing almost lyrically. However, as soon as the lost soldier entered the story, the writing style drastically changed whenever he was telling stories about his past. The writing style changes so drastically, it caught me off guard the first time. I found myself having a hard time transitioning form chapter to chapter when the writing changed in this manor. The political commentary honestly felt like a background story. There was a need for a “clock” to move the sotry along, which happens to be the congressman’s political agenda and reelection, but I found myself not caring as much about the political side of things. I was much more engaged with Betsy character and development. Overall, I am glad I read this novel!
Final rating: 3.5