Tag Archives: marriage

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman. September 25, 2018. Knopf Publishing Group, 192 p. ISBN: 9781101947395.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

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? A piercingly insightful, deeply felt meditation on loyalty and betrayal, love and fear, Waiting for Eden is a tour de force of profound humanity.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Harsh realities of war, Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Violence

 

Author Video

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
In this gorgeously constructed short novel, Ackerman (Dark at the Crossing, 2017) focuses on a marriage between a soldier, Eden Malcolm, and his wife, Mary. In taut, detached prose that is rich in symbolism, the novel begins with Eden’s dramatic return from Iraq, where he has been injured beyond all recognition. Mary comes immediately to his side, heavily pregnant. The scene of much of the novel is the San Antonio burn unit in which Eden resides. In short sections that flit between Eden before the explosion and his existence after, Ackerman, in a mysterious narrative voice, describes how Mary navigates grief, loss, motherhood, and what it means to be married to someone barely alive. Both Eden’s and Mary’s fears and foibles are richly explored to create a deeply moving portrayal of how grief can begin even while our loved ones still cling to life. In this unique Afghanistan and Iraq Wars novel, which joins a growing genre that includes Kevin Powers’ Yellow Birds​ (2012) and Phil Klay’s Redeployment (2014), Ackerman’s focus on a single family makes the costs of war heartbreakingly clear, as does his drawing emotion and import from the smallest of acts with incredible skill. Many will read this wonderful novel in a single sitting.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2018)
Wounded terribly in Iraq three years ago, a soldier awaits his death in a burn center in San Antonio, and we learn of his fate through a surprising, unconventional, and risky narrative strategy. Eden is the soldier who just barely survived when his Humvee hit a pressure plate in the Hamrin Valley, and the narrator is a fellow soldier who was killed in the same explosion—and who considers Eden’s fate worse than his own. Because the narrator is dead, he is granted a kind of omniscience that would be denied someone living; for example, he has access to what passes through Eden’s mind even as Eden is immobilized and practically catatonic. We learn that he and Eden had been friends in the service, had taken some of the same special training, and had been deployed together. Through a series of flashbacks we also learn of the narrator’s attraction to Eden’s wife, Mary, who in the present is grieving over Eden’s hopelessly burned body and is worried about exposing her 3-year-old daughter to Eden’s insentience. Mary is faced with the morally difficult decision of whether or not to release Eden from his suffering, a strategy urged on her by Gabe, a gruff but caring nurse. Ackerman skillfully weaves his story across chapters that alternate between the grim reality of the burn center and Eden’s more robust past, where we discover that he and Mary had difficulty conceiving a child, a tension exacerbated by the narrator’s growing attraction to Mary. We’re informed that Mary and the narrator inhabit a “space that is empty and white, waiting for [Eden]….We both wonder what will happen to us when he finally goes.” The poignancy arises out of the fact that they both love Eden in their own way. An affecting, spare, and unusual novel.

About the Author

Elliot Ackerman is the author of the novels Waiting for Eden, 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, among other publications, and his stories have been included in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Travel Writing. 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. His website is www.elliotackerman.com

Teacher Resources

Waiting for Eden Readers’ Guide

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Waiting for Eden on Amazon

Waiting for Eden on Barnes & Noble

Waiting for Eden on Goodreads

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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. February 6, 2018. Algonquin Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9781616201340.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Drugs

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Married for just over a year, Roy and Celestial are still navigating their new dynamic as husband and wife. Then their lives are forever altered when they travel to Roy’s small Louisiana hometown for a visit, and Roy is falsely accused of a harrowing crime and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The strain on their relationship is intense during Roy’s incarceration, especially once Celestial’s career takes off while he struggles with loss and feelings of abandonment. Nearly halfway through Roy’s sentence, his conviction is vacated. In the aftermath of his unexpected release, the couple must confront difficult questions about the choices they’ve made as well as the expectations of others. For Celestial, it means reconciling the relationship with her husband with that of a longtime friend turned lover. Roy, on the other hand, faces the complexities of a life he no longer recognizes. Jones (Silver Sparrow, 2011) crafts an affecting tale that explores marriage, family, regret, and other feelings made all the more resonant by her well-drawn characters and their intricate conflicts of heart and mind.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2017)
A look at the personal toll of the criminal justice system from the author of Silver Sparrow (2011) and The Untelling (2005).Roy has done everything right. Growing up in a working-class family in Louisiana, he took advantage of all the help he could get and earned a scholarship to Morehouse College. By the time he marries Spelman alum Celestial, she’s an up-and-coming artist. After a year of marriage, they’re thinking about buying a bigger house and starting a family. Then, on a visit back home, Roy is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Jones begins with chapters written from the points of view of her main characters. When Roy goes to prison, it becomes a novel in letters. The epistolary style makes perfect sense. Roy is incarcerated in Louisiana, Celestial is in Atlanta, and Jones’ formal choice underscores their separation. Once Roy is released, the narrative resumes a rotating first person, but there’s a new voice, that of Andre, once Celestial’s best friend and now something more. This novel is peopled by vividly realized, individual characters and driven by interpersonal drama, but it is also very much about being black in contemporary America. Roy is arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned in Louisiana, the state with the highest per-capita rate of incarceration in the United States, and where the ratio of black to white prisoners is 4 to 1. There’s a heartbreaking scene in which Celestial’s uncle—Roy’s attorney—encourages her to forget everything she knows about presenting herself while she speaks in her husband’s defense. “Now is not the time to be articulate. Now is the time to give it up. No filter, all heart.” After a lifetime of being encouraged to be “well spoken,” Celestial finds that she sounds false trying to speak unguardedly. “As I took my seat…not even the black lady juror would look at me.” This is, at its heart, a love story, but a love story warped by racial injustice. And, in it, Jones suggests that racial injustice haunts the African-American story. Subtle, well-crafted, and powerful.

About the Author

Tayari Jones is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and An American Marriage. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, and Callaloo. A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. Silver Sparrow was named a #1 Indie Next Pick by booksellers in 2011, and the NEA added it to its Big Read Library of classics in 2016. Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa, and Arizona State University.

She is currently an Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University.  Her website is www.tayarijones.com.

Teacher Resources

An American Marriage Reading Guide

Around the Web

An American Marriage on Amazon

An American Marriage on Goodreads

An American Marriage Publisher Page

Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu

Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu. June 13, 2017. Soho Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9781616957902.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she
drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met.

As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life? Is she willing to walk away from all that she values about her parents and community to live in a new truth? As Lucky—an outsider no matter what choices she makes—is pushed to the breaking point, Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a vivid exploration of a life lived at a complex intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality. The result is a profoundly American debut novel shot through with humor and loss, a story of love, family, and the truths that define us all.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
What do you do when your life is built on a lie—your marriage, your family relationships, your entire identity? The heroine of Sindu’s fine debut, who goes by the Americanized name of Lucky (her birth name is Lakshmi), is a lesbian married to a gay Indian man, Kris (short for Krishna), and to make matters worse, her economic situation is also precarious: she is an unemployed millennial programmer. The child of immigrants from Sri Lanka, Lucky is caught in a double bind: Does she acquiesce or be true to herself? She wants to please her traditional family, especially her mother and grandmother, who want her to live the conventional life of a “good brown daughter.” Her feelings are further complicated when she learns that her first love, Nisha, is about to get married to someone she doesn’t love. When Lucky’s grandmother is injured in a fall, Lucky returns to her mother’s home to be her grandmother’s caretaker, and to confront her present and future. A timely tale with themes of immigration, free will, identity, and personal choice.

About the Author

SJ Sindu was born in Sri Lanka and raised in Massachusetts. Her hybrid fiction and nonfiction chapbook, I Once Met You But You Were Dead, won the 2016 Turnbuckle Chapbook Contest and was published by Split Lip Press. She was a 2013 Lambda Literary Fellow and holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Florida State University. She teaches Creative Writing at Ringling College of Art and Design. Marriage of a Thousand Lies is her first novel.

Her website is sjsindu.com

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Marriage of a Thousand Lies on Amazon

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Marriage of a Thousand Lies Publisher Page