A War Veteran on the Lam with his Young Child
(NOTE: Some of the links in this blog are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase on Amazon. Thank you for supporting my writing in this manner. More details here.)
In the opening pages of this novel, we learn a lot including the fact that there is a lot we don’t know. There is a cabin in the woods. There is a man named Cooper, who is a veteran of some war, and a little girl named Finch, his daughter. They are not just visiting the cabin, they live there. They even hunt for their food! Cooper tells us Finch is eight years and 316 days old. And he says, “I’ve kept track of the days and I am grateful for each one because if there is one thing I have learned in this life, it’s that it can all end, fast. I know, too, that it will. End, I mean. One way or another – Finch and me…in this quiet pocket of woods – our life out here will not go on forever. It’s a thing I don’t like to think about.”
So, why are these two in a cabin in the woods and why is it going to end and will it end within the 270 pages of the book?
Part of my own history is that I was in a long-term relationship with a Vietnam Vet who was the sole survivor of an ambush. This makes me skittish about stories involving war veterans, but also makes me very sympathetic to their plight. PTSD is its own brand of hell.
It was with trepidation and empathy that I read on.
As it turns out, Coop is a veteran of the War on Terror. He enlisted at age 19 and tells us, “By the time my first four years were up, I’d done three tours overseas and the thing about it – I hated everything I’d done but I was good at it.”
He goes on to say, “They tell you, it’s war; it’s different. But it’s not, not really. That’s just what they say so you can try and live with yourself. Thing is, though: you will always know what you did and what you took and what you lost and it’s your life, it’s all a part of you, like it or not, and you can never truly separate yourself from it. I signed up for it, I followed through. I accept responsibility. My point is just that you can never really be free from the things you’ve done, and that’s that.”
And so, as a result of his war experience, Cooper did something during an episode of PTSD that threatened his standing as a parent and off he ran with his baby daughter, Finch, into the cabin in the woods. Well actually, it was Kenny Morrison who ran off with his daughter Grace Elizabeth, with Child Protective Services hot on their tails. They now live with new identities in the woods. The cabin is owned by a friend of Cooper’s with whom he served in Kabul.
Their existence in the woods is interesting to read about and there is no doubt that Cooper is a good father to his child, and yet, we know – and he knows – that Finch is missing out on a lot. As he lists things: “Dollhouses. Libraries. School lunches on those melamine trays. Funnel cakes and Ferris wheels. Swimming pools: the smell of chlorine in your hair, those white chairs that hue with mildew. Saturday morning cartoons. Riding a school bus. Telephones: the comfort of hearing someone’s voice who is far away. Airplanes, the miracle of flight. The ocean. Crushes. Sleepovers with friends. Back-to-school shopping. Playing dress-up. Getting a driver’s license. Bowling alleys. Ice cream, hand-dipped. Sharing secrets with a best friend. Proms. Field trips. Movie theaters. Walmart.”
But there is also the positive side that Cooper explains this way, “What I rest on, though, what keeps me from getting too tangled up in feeling bad about it, is that this life I am giving her – it’s not conventional, but at its core, it’s a good life. Wholesome. In terms of basic necessities, she lacks nothing. She’s cared for. Loved.”
Of course, as Cooper told us at the start, life as they know it cannot go on forever. Something is bound to happen. And it does. And it is heart wrenching. And readers like me will shed a few tears.
What can I say? I like to cry at the end of a book! I also like it when an author figures out a way to help dry the tears, which is exactly what happens in this book. So there you have it – tears and cessation of tears – two reasons that I recommend this novel!
I’m glad you found this book review and I hope you loved it. If so, check out my book blog – there are more than 100 reviews there to explore, with more to come. I publish about three dozen reviews a year.