ELI THE GOOD by Silas House
Eli Book is ten years old the year the United States turned 200; Bicentennial 1976. It was a time when most people were happy and proud to be in America. Vietnam had ended just over a year before, leaving Eli’s father in the trenches. His best friend, neighbor Edie, is a girl, (please don’t tell). They do most everything together, including sharing of secret hideaways, under porches and in large bushes. Then one day, showing off in front of the guys, Eli hurts Edie and their friendship dissolves. Eli lives in a house-of-cards with everyone holding onto his or her own secret, including Eli. The big Fourth of July parade and town celebration becomes the breaking point for the family when the fireworks of secrets threatens the family. One person nearly self-destructs.
Eli the Good is a good Southern flavored story about the costs of war to a family. Eli’s father was like any other until he voluntarily joined the army, thinking he will have an adventure, only to be sent to Vietnam where he saw and did unspeakable things. He brings the war home with him in the form of PTSD, a psychological disorder Vietnam vets are disproportionally affected. Eli’s mother is the only line of defense when the soldier returns to the war. Eli is a brat. He eavesdrops on every conversation he can, borrows the letters his father wrote to his mother from Vietnam “to understand what happened over there,” then deeply hurts Edie simply to be a big shot in front of a group of boys he was not even friends with (not that this would have excused his behavior).
Reading this was not the usually experience. At times, it seemed mundane, just as life can be. At other times, the story popped with excitement. The entire time, the story took me back to a timer when I was younger and did not understand war or the men who fought them. Eli’s quest that summer is to figure out his father and the war he never came back from. Mixed in are secrets each character holds that has influenced their actions. Eli tries to become privy to each with his snooping. In the end, Eli wants his father to return home and love him as he thinks a pre-Vietnam father would love his young son.
Throughout the story Eli is loved by both parents; he simply cannot feel it because of a wall built by the war, that no one can transverse. It is odd how fragile, sad stories can lift you and renew your spirit. In this way, Eli the Good is an odd novel I’m glad I read. It is now available in paperback.
note: received from librarything.com, courtesy of publisher