Friday, October 12, 2012

Retro Friday: The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White



Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie @ Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be a favourite, an under the radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print etc.

Published 2005 by Point

Rebecca, a young nurse stationed in Vietnam during the war, must come to grips with her wartime experiences once she returns home to the United States.

First up – a great big massive THANK YOU to the ever thoughtful and amazing Angie, who gifted me this here book a couple of months ago, all because she thought I would love it and OH MY GOODNESS DO I FOREVER LOVE THIS BOOK.

I have developed an itch for war stories and unlike baloo from the Jungle Book; I can’t just scratch it away. It’s there under my skin refusing to be ignored, which I find really strange because for years and years I hated them with the fiery passion of a billion burning suns. And then The Book Thief happened. Followed by Something Like Normal and the show stopping Code Name Verity. Now , The Road Home has sealed their fate; I am unconditionally in love with war books.

Rebecca is the last person you would expect to enlist in the army, but after the boy she loves is killed in the war, she voluntarily signs up to be part of the war effort and gets shipped off to Vietnam to be a lieutenant nurse. Naturally, the war is a lot worse than she could ever have imagined and ends up with her being shot down from a helicopter she wasn't even supposed to be on and running for her life through the jungle on a broken leg of all things. Split into The War and The World we get to see Rebecca navigate her life both before and after the war and how to deal with the friends she lost and the friends she made. Mainly one Michael Jennings, the arrogant hot letter-writing-genius private she met in the jungle.

Basically this book shows all other books that bitches GET SHIT DONE because hot damn does White come out swinging.

I’m trying to adequately explain just how much this book made me feel things I NEVER expected a book would make me feel.  This book is brutal and is unflinchingly realistic; from the drug and alcohol abuse of the doctors and nurses working in the hospital just to stay awake and alert. The never ending fear is apparent in every single line of prose; the descriptions so harrowing-ly painful that it sometimes took my breath away. You feel like you are right there in this strange place with piles of bodies surrounding you and the stench of death lingering in the air. To be able to do that with only words is phenomenal.

One of the hardest things for me was watching these strong characters hit rock bottom and then just when you think it has to get better for them, someone throws them a shovel and they have to dig themselves deeper and deeper into despair. But for all that this book is painful, it’s pretty damn hopeful.

I fell head over heels in love with Rebecca. She is a survivor in every sense of the word and to see her just going through the motions as she struggles to deal with what comes before and after was heart breaking. Her relationship with Michael is all encompassing; you can tell that he takes up her thoughts when she actually lets herself think. The constant back and forth letters between the two were perfect; the right combination of hilarious comments and unspoken words they won’t let themselves say.

Special mention for Major Doyle. I LOVE YOU. Maybe I can drop by for a drink and a smoke?

The Road Home is one of those books that even though its emotionally fraught and made me almost throw up from crying so much, it’s just comforting in a weird but wonderful way. I want to hide it under my pillow to keep it safe. I want to shove it into the hands of everyone I know. It’s a journey this book and one that I’m so happy to have been taken a long for. A favourite.

22 comments:

  1. Okay so this cover looks so familar. I wonder if Scholastic made all their covers similarly at some point because... it really looks like something I read.

    I just finished reading the first two books in the President's Daughter series by White and I love them. I'm sad I can't find a lot of information on the author though but it seems she wrote those in college and that intrigues me.

    Anyway, retro friday is such a fun meme and I'm going to add more of White to my list!

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    1. the cover makes me lolololollllllll because it looks oh so retro and I can't imagine that cover ever catching someones eye apart from the giggle at it.

      white is amazing is she not....I have been unsuccessfully been trying to cyber stalk her but it's SO hard to find anything out about her, you're totally right!

      Angie is the genius behing Retro Friday. I have to say I have a rather big soft spot for it as most of my favourite books are out of print or were published years and years ago.

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  2. Never heard of this one! But I can't help but love historical fiction (esp war stories!) so I'm going to see if the library has this one! Particularly because most of the ones I've read are set in WW2. Never really read a Vietnam setting!

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    1. me either...I was a vietnam virgin until this bad boy right hurrrr. if i lie also deals with war vets from the vietnam too. and yayyyyyyy i really hope they do, would love to chat about this one.

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  3. just looking at it on the surface, you wouldn't (okay, I wouldn't) expect it to be so brutal and honest.

    I am intrigued. A double Angie/Carla rec is hard to ignore.

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    Replies
    1. it's that cover right? just doesn't give you the right feel of the book.

      and yes ME AND ANGIE ARE GOING TO TAG TEAM YOU.

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    2. You don't stand a chance, Allison. You will reeeeeaaaaaad it!

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  4. My love for this book is big and messy and I am incapable of not forcing it on people I think might love it too.

    So you have made me excessively happy with this review. *fistbump*

    Rebecca and Michael have my heart packed away in their army duffels for good. And Major Doyle is the definition of stone cold goddess.

    I'll stop now.

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    1. you know how glad I am that you "forced" this on me right? SO GLAD. SO GLAD I CAN'T EVEN HANDLE IT. I don't even think I can thank you enough really.

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  5. GIRL, WHAT. A book about a NURSE? I send you a trans-Atlantic high five, because yay, nurses!

    Hmmm... a WAR book, though? I like my stories to be fluffed the F out, especially as of late for some reason. I think I'll have to read this when I'm in the right mood. My reading tastes are crazypants as of late.

    This review, though? GOLD.

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    1. OMG. between this and the book about the hot coach, it's like I am channelling you and Mr Jen. SPOOKY.

      though srsly, you should read this. it's proper amazing like.

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  6. I have never heard of this book - and I'm glad that through this meme, you've remedied that. I am particularly fascinated with books that feature wars as a prominent reality in them, and this one sounds fantastic. I'm curious to see just what happens to Rebecca.

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    1. oh Alexa, it is so so amazing....and yes! you should go to Angie's blog for retro friday (she is my favourite blogger, hands down)

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  7. One of my favorite books ever! I've long wished there were a sequel (not that I haven't already plotted out What Happens Next in Michael and Rebecca's world, but it'd be nice to have the official word...)

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  9. I read this book in high school and as soon as I found it on Kindle, I snapped it up. The story, as many of Ellen Emerson White's, is full of life and struggle. It is a wonderful way of giving us, the younger generation, a tiny hint about the lives of anyone who was over there. If you like nursing or medical books definitely give this one a try. It is worth it.
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