Elliot Ackerman: Waiting for Eden, a Stunning Work

November 1, 2018
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WAITING FOR EDEN
A Novel by Elliot Ackerman

(Alfred A. Knopf, 2018)

Elliot Ackerman—whose last novel, Dark at the Crossing, was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award—returns with WAITING FOR EDEN
(Knopf, 2018 ), a breathtakingly spare and shattering new novel that showcases Ackerman’s singular gift for depicting humanity in all its complexity. It is, perhaps, his most personal book yet. 

We at Authorlink read and review many books, but WAITING FOR EDEN haunted this writer more than any work I have read in many years. Ackerman has a remarkable ability to make his audience weep without tears and hope when there is none, binding us together with the fragile threads of our shared humanity. 

Eden Malcom lies in a bed, unable to move or to speak, imprisoned in his own mind. His wife Mary spends every day on the sofa in his hospital room. He has never even met their young daughter. And he will never again see the friend and fellow soldier who didn’t make it back home—and who narrates the novel.

But on Christmas, the one day Mary is not at his bedside, Eden’s re-ordered consciousness comes flickering alive. As he begins to find a way to communicate, some troubling truths about his marriage—and about his life before he went to war—come to the surface. Is Eden
the same man he once was: a husband, a friend, a father-to-be? What makes a life worth living?

Since his widely acclaimed debut novel, Green on Blue was recognized for presenting “a bone-deep understanding of the toll that a seemingly endless war has taken on ordinary Afghans” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times), Ackerman—a novelist, journalist, and
former Marine—has demonstrated a remarkable talent for bringing readers into the experiences of those who often seem inaccessible. WAITING FOR EDEN takes us even further into the uncharted territory of people who may only appear to be beyond our reach.
The novel devastatingly inhabits a husband and wife who cannot communicate with one another, two friends who face the sheer unknowability of the divide between life and death, and is an audacious, utterly convincing portrayal of a mind that no longer has mastery over the body it serves.

A tour de force that has galvanized its early readers, WAITING FOR EDEN solidifies Ackerman’s place on the “A-list” (Library Journal) of contemporary novelists and marks a commanding step forward for a writer whose work is “hauntingly evocative and beautiful”
(Elif Shafak), “a unique and bittersweet blessing of raw grace and naked, bleeding empathy” (Bob Shacochis).

“Gorgeously constructed . . . Unique . . . A deeply moving portrayal of how grief can begin even

while our loved ones still cling to life . . . A wonderful novel.”

—Booklist (starred)

“Heartbreaking . . . A deeply touching exploration of resentment, longing, and loss.”

—Publishers Weekly (starred) “An affecting, spare, and unusual novel. ”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Elliot Ackerman continues to amaze…  Waiting for Eden is a tight, intense story of loyalty, guilt, and suffering that belies its brevity.”
—ShelfAwareness

“With Waiting for Eden, Elliot Ackerman tells a story that cuts straight to the heart of the human condition. His sentences are elegant in their concision and directness, and they reveal as much about grief, love, and our duties to each other as any book I can recall reading. It’s a bold,
ambitious project even in its most quiet moments, for it asks no less than where we draw the line around the inherent value of human life. This is a devastatingly sad and compassionate piece of work. Extraordinary.”

—Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds and A Shout in the Ruins

Elliot Ackerman, author of Waiting for Eden

ELLIOT ACKERMAN is the author of the novels Dark at the Crossing, which was a finalist for
the National Book Award, and Green on Blue. His writings have appeared in Esquire, The New
Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine, including other publications, and his
stories have been included in The Best American Short Stories. He is both a former White
House Fellow and Marine, and served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he
received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. He divides his time between New York City and Washington, D.C.

 

Dear Reader,

We often think of grief as a transitory state. We mourn a loss and then, once our
mourning is complete, we move on. But some losses never abate. A grief can be too
large. And what then?

When I was in the wars, certain friends of mine suffered losses nearly as devastating as
those suffered by the character Eden in this novel. Their survival was in doubt but, in
many cases, they would miraculously hold on. For years and years, they would hold on.
Those of us who hadn’t been wounded struggled to understand the best way to keep
faith with them. How often should we visit? Which of us should check in with the family?
In some cases, so little of the old person remained that we didn’t even know whether to
speak of them in the past or present tense, and how we chose to speak of them
became, at times, a point of contention.

Waiting for Eden is not rooted in any one person’s story, but rather in the cumulative
loss of many friends and the larger question of how we keep faith with each other, in
life, in love, and even in death. Grief is a type of faith, contained within it is the belief
that eventually, our spirits will heal. I’m not sure the healing always happens. When it
doesn’t, we are left with something other than grief. We are left waiting.
Thank you for taking the time to read.
Sincerely,

Elliot Ackerman

Bookseller Praise for WAITING FOR EDEN

“What begins as a literary hat trick—a tale told by a dead man—ends with a question
unanswered: What is a life and is it worth living? A terse, nonlinear, and effortlessly plotted story
of how a troubled marriage and the senseless brutality of war are driven to a heartbreaking
conclusion on a bleak Christmas evening.”—Matt Lage, Iowa Book / Iowa City
 
“A very well written book that packs a lot in a small dose. It is a book about the choices we
make and how those choices affect the other people in our lives…the effects of war that we
sometimes never see or choose to not believe exist .. and the things we will do for those who
we love. A book that will stay with you and keep you thinking long after it is done.”
—Anna Flynn, Watermark Books / Wichita

“A short, literary novel about a wife’s all-or-nothing pursuit of a baby, the betrayal of friends, lies,
twists, and questionable motives, all told by a dead narrator!  This’ll be an excellent book club
book – perfect for men and women, and certain to elicit great discussions over a bottle or three
of wine.”—Douglas Ward, University of Iowa Bookstore

“Haunting, gorgeous and thought-provoking, Waiting for Eden is the thinking-reader's best
friend. Elliot Ackerman beautifully weaves this tragic and heart-breaking story through chapters
of past and present, told by a character waiting on the other side. Don't pick this up intending to
read ‘just one chapter’ because that is just not possible. Looking forward to placing this in the
hands of my readers.”—Mary O’Malley, Anderson’s Bookshop, / LaGrange, IL
“Waiting for Eden is the story of a badly burned Marine and his wife, told by his best friend and
fellow Marine, but this is not primarily a novel about war, but one about love. What is love? What
is loyalty? What is regret? What, indeed, is a life? Waiting for Eden is searing and unforgettable,
brief but utterly superlative — devastating in the way that only the best literature can
be.”—Emilie Sommer, East City Bookshop / Washington D.C.
 
“Waiting for Eden” is devastating! An intimate look at a family immersed in a horrendous
situation, slight turns in the viewpoint create new facets that offer surprising revelations. This
short novel has staying power, and I'm still contemplating the choices made.”
—Laurie Gillman, East City Bookshop / Washington D.C.
 
“This intimate novel packs a wallop. Exploring the trajectory of relationships, individual
choices and how they impact those we are close to, the sacrifices we make for each other and
how we ultimately decide to live, Waiting for Eden, is a bittersweet gem. Ackerman writes
sparely yet there is a lot of emotional weight in his prose. Ackerman writes intimately and
beautifully about the impact of war on our psyches.”
—Jennifer Wood, East City Bookshop / Washington D.C.

“What an amazing book.  Waiting for Eden is like getting caught off guard by an explosion, and
then watching the subsequent fire flare, and burn, and smolder– each glowing ember another
insight into the people that fill this forceful book. A hint of a classic war novella, with the
frustration of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and the passion of the film Breaking the
Waves.”—Kira, Merritt Bookstore / Millbrook, NY 

“With spare, direct prose, Ackerman creates characters, dilemmas and decisions that you will
not easily forget. Nor should you. This is heart-breaking and difficult and a story of and very
much for our time. It is not an easy book to read or move away from and that is as it should be.
It deserves many readers willing to be disturbed and to consider all the questions it raises.”
—Anne Whalen, OnceUponaDreamLLC
 
“I just finished this book started it yesterday and read it every free moment I could today, my
heart felt like it just kept breaking open again and again while reading it. The story is so
beautifully written and heartbreaking. I've read my share of novels written by former soldiers or
about the horrors of the men and women who are fortunate (or not) to make it back, but this one
I know will stay with me even longer, maybe forever.”—Robin, House of Books / Kent, CT
“I cannot remember when a book moved me so much.”
—Lisa Newman, Lemuria Books / Jackson, MS

“Don’t be fooled by Waiting for Eden’s slim stature: this book will level you. Eden Malcom
returns to the States as the most wounded soldier of the Iraq war, and therefore of any
American war ever. His wife, Mary, spends every day by Eden's hospital bed, keeping faith
longer than anyone else that he will wake up, if not heal. Elliot Ackerman’s novel, narrated by
the ghost of Eden’s friend with complicated bonds to both Eden and Mary is an economical and
cutting portrait of grief and the difficult choices families make when faced by the specter of
war.”—Danny Caine, Raven Bookstore / Lawrence, KS

“Powerful and heartbreaking but full of love!”

—Steph, Page & Palette / Fairhope, AL

Select Praise and Accolades for DARK AT THE CROSSING

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Washington Post • NPR • The Christian

Science Monitor • Military Times • Vogue • Bloomberg

“One could argue that the most vital literary terrain in America’s overseas wars is now occupied
not by journalists but by novelists…Elliot Ackerman is certainly one of those novelists…He has
created people who are not the equivalents of the locally exotic subjects in your average NPR story,
and he has used them to populate a fascinating and topical novel.”
—Lawrence Osborne, New York Times Book Review

“Ackerman, who lives in Istanbul and has written some fine reportage from the Turkish
borderlands knows Gaziantep well and sharply depicts its incongruities . . . He shows boldness
and empathy in trying to envision modern conflagrations from foreign vantage points.”
—Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

“Ackerman’s eye for detail grounds this novel in a space that quickly transports readers into a
world few Americans know . . . Dark at the Crossing is not only a fictional meditation on
remorse, betrayal, love, and loss, but also a journey that returns us to the beautiful and broken
world we live in.”—Washington Post

“Dark at the Crossing promises to be one of the most essential books of 2017.”—Esquire 
“Visceral, unsentimental and in a style that begs to be underlined and savored, this is a novel
about how people carry the emotional and physical scars of war through their lives, and how
war both demolishes and becomes home . . . The many references to actual street and district
names, smells and unique predicaments, such as underfunded, understaffed hospitals that are
teeming with refugees, heighten the book’s authenticity and earnestness.”
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

WAITING FOR EDEN: A Novel by Elliot Ackerman

Alfred A. Knopf

On-sale  2018
Hardcover | $22.95 | 192 pages
ISBN 978-1101947395
Letter: WAITING FOR EDEN

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This post was written by Doris Booth

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