East of Coker, by Andy Owen
Publisher: War Writers’ Campaign, Inc.; April 7, 2016
When men and women return from a war, sometimes you see physical indications such as a missing limb or scars. Other times, you may not see anything in particular, however, that doesn’t mean that they are not just as wounded. Most people recognize the term PTSD and know now that it can apply to any traumatic experience. Andy Owen’s novel, East of Coker, goes beyond telling the stories of soldiers suffering from PTSD. This outstanding novel is an examination of what defines us as people.
Based on the style and ideas of T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Waste Land, Owen’s novel is a complex and moving retelling of the effects of war. The narration changes throughout the novel between an older man, a younger man, an aging woman on the brink of dementia, and a wife living in wartime Middle East. The novel begins rather somber, and honestly is confusing at times, but while reading you soon understand the changing of the narrators. There is an old man, Arthur, who was in love, but upon returning from war a changed man, he pushed his true love away, and slipped into a life of self-isolation. Then there is Isolde, who has lost her family – with whom she built a life after being pushed away by her love – and is realizing that her memory and thought processes are failing, but still remembers… The younger generation fighting a war is different, however, the reader still sees the similarities regarding fears, concerns, longing, and loss.
I am at a loss regarding how to summarize the plot of this novel or provide a synopsis. However, I can say that the author has an immense love and passion for language. The word choices, the flow of the writing, the imagery – are all amazing. As I said before, there were a few times I was literally lost and confused, going back to re-read paragraphs or pages, however, it wasn’t because of poor writing but because every single line is so meaningful. Regardless of the point of view or narrator, as the reader you will become immersed in their sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. The descriptive, vivid language in Owen’s writing is not something frequently seen. From the beginning of the novel it is easy to infer that the author wants you to be the character, be the narrator, and feel what they felt. My heart ached for Arthur and Isolde, as well as, all of the other characters in this novel subjected to the impact of war. East of Coker is not a light-hearted, casual read, however, it demands attention and significance due to the subject matter and amazing writing. I am so very grateful to have been contacted by Andy Owen, and to have read this incredible novel. If you have not had the opportunity to lose yourself in this beautiful novel, get it now.
All proceeds from this novel go to the War Writers’ Campaign to support veterans and their families. To learn more, visit: http://www.warwriterscampaign.org/
*I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.