‘Eleven Days’ – Lea Carpenter
ELEVEN DAYS is, at its heart, the story of a mother and a son.
It begins in May 2011: Sara’s son Jason has been missing for nine days in the aftermath of a Special Operations Forces mission. Out of devotion to him, Sara has made herself knowledgeable about the military, but she knows nothing more about her son’s disappearance than the press corps camped outside her house.
In a series of flashbacks we learn about Jason’s absentee father – a man who, according to ‘insiders’, helped make America safer – and about Jason’s decision to join the Navy after 9/11 then enter into the toughest military training in the world: for the U.S. Naval Special Warfare’s Navy SEAL Teams.
Through letters Jason writes to his mother during training, we see him becoming a complex, compassionate leader. But his fate will be determined by events outside his control, and far outside the unique embrace of a mother who raised her son on her own.
Page-turning and haunting, this is an astonishing debut which questions the very nature of sacrifice and love and touches on some of the most profound questions we have: about war, service, and family.
What was mission-driven and relevant was what had always been: her love for her boy. Had he decided to join the circus, she might have developed an obsession with elephants.
This is a book that had me captivated from the first pages. I asked to review this book as I really wanted to read this story, particularly being the mother of a son.
The fact that the son character Jason is in the military made me a little hesitant, but I was not deterred for too long.
The book opens with the fact that Jason is missing. As the book unfolds it moves between the present day and the past with Jason telling some of the story, including letters that he has written to his mother.
I am not going to try to explain the story line in great detail. As it is I have been debating for quite a few days now how I can give this book justice with a review. I just found it so moving and powerful. It is not often that I take every single moment I can to finish a book as quickly as possible. But this was the case with this book. I even took to reading on the bus on the way to work and mostly this makes me feel nauseous. For once it didn’t as I was held in thrall by Carpenter’s description of a mother and her son; from both of their perspectives.
It is absolutely worth getting hold of a copy to read.
He felt he did not want to leave her not because it occurred to him that he might not be back but because it occurred to him – regularly now – that life is short, and time moves too quickly, and when you find someone you want to be with, that’s rare.
I’ll leave you with the thoughts of one person:
‘Every soldier, was, once, someone’s child. With this ineluctable truth at her story’s core, Lea Carpenter has crafted a beautiful, and original, work of art. Eleven Days manages to be both a meditation on courage and a gripping read. Scholarly and stylish, displaying a capacious mind and even greater heart. A magnificent debut.’
Alexandra Styron, author of Reading My Father
Published by Two Roads an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton
Hardback ISBN 978 1 444 77623 2
Review copy provided by the publisher.