Books

Waiting for Eden

Elliot Ackerman's Waiting for Eden is a spare and shattering new novel that traces the intersection of three star-crossed lives.

Elliot Ackerman

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. (from Alfred A. Knopf)

From the book

I want you to understand Mary and what she did. But I don't know if you will. You've got to wonder if in the end you'd make the same choice, circumstances being similar, or even the same, God help you. Back when I first met her and Eden times were better. They were trying to start a family then. And months later, on that night in the Hamrin Valley, I was sitting next to Eden and luckier than him when our Humvee hit a pressure plate, killing me and everybody else, him barely surviving.

Ever since then I've been around too, just on that other side, seeing all there is, and waiting.

Three years have gone by and my friend's spent every day of it laid out in that burn center in San Antonio. I could give you the catalogue of his injuries, but I won't. Not because I don't think you could stomach it, but because I don't think it'd really tell you much about what type of a way he's in. So I'll tell you this: he used to weigh two hundred and twenty pounds and some mornings, when we'd workout together, he'd press well over one-fifty above his head, sweat pouring from beneath his black hair. Before we deployed, he and I both went to SERE school, that's the one up in Maine where they teach you what to do in case you become a prisoner. For a couple of weeks the instructors starved us and roughed us up pretty bad.

Then the course ended and those same instructors had a graduation party with us. That night at the party, I watched him pound five pints of Guinness in almost as many minutes. He held it all down, too. But I'll also tell you that if you ever went to his house for dinner he wouldn't serve Guinness, he'd likely do all the cooking and serve you a bottle of wine he'd chosen specially for your visit. He could tell you all about the wine: the viticulture considerations in the soil of the vineyard, and when you were done with that and the main course, he'd serve chocolate with hot pepper or sea salt, or some other fancy thing mixed in. He said that stuff brought out the flavor.

I still don't know if that's true, but I liked that he said it. I'll tell you that every guy in the platoon had a nickname. One pervy guy was called Hand Job because he had all sorts of weird porn on his computer. And another guy, a kind of dumb guy, was called Wedge because a wedge is the world's simplest tool. But Eden's nickname was Slam Dance. That's how he treated the whole world, like it was a mosh pit and he was slam dancing along in it. At least before the pressure plate. But now I don't know what to call him. The seventy pounds that's left of him in the bed—he's had a lot of infections, and they've cut all of him off up to the torso—isn't Slam Dance and it isn't the name he was born with. I don't think anyone really knows what to call him, except for Mary.

She calls him her husband.


From Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman ©2018. Published by Alfred A. Knopf.​​

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