National Book Award finalist Elliot Ackerman’s latest novel, Waiting for Eden, is narrated by an unnamed soldier who died in the line of duty in Iraq but lingers to tell the story of his friend, Eden, and Eden’s wife, Mary.
Eden earned the nickname “BASE Jump” from his platoon after he leaped from the third deck one night, heavily intoxicated, but somehow landed on his feet. Beyond this incident, however, luck has been a stranger in Eden’s life.
Having enlisted in the military to escape the vapid life of a small Midwestern town, Eden soon encounters another disappointment, this time in his marriage to his high school girlfriend, Mary, as they struggle to have a child. Mary is desperate and willing to do anything to give Eden the child he wants and to keep him from re-enlisting. Mary succeeds in getting pregnant, but Eden figures out that he isn’t the father. Once again, to escape his woes, Eden leaves for Iraq, where his Humvee hits a pressure plate, killing all of his comrades, including his best friend and the father of Mary’s baby.
In the three years since the accident, the formerly 220-pound Eden has been reduced to 70 pounds and is in a vegetative state. On one side of the veil waits Mary and her daughter; on the other waits the narrator.
Ackerman has given us a war story that is packed with love, pain and guilt, but above all, it is a meditation on the legacies we leave behind.