Waiting For Eden Cover

Waiting For Eden

Elliot Ackerman

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2018, 144 pages

Book Review published on: September 8, 2023

Elliot Ackerman’s Waiting for Eden is a fiction novel giving insight into how a modern young family deals with war, friendship, love, life, and a complicated family. It is told from the perspective of the character Eden’s departed best friend as an omniscient narrator. The story leaves the reader feeling connected to the characters and their struggles. Awarded the Medal for Excellence in Fiction for the work, Ackerman keeps readers in suspense and his storytelling will likely resonate with individuals dealing with loss together while simultaneously clinging to a future.

Waiting for Eden is a complex story focused on main characters Eden, a war veteran imprisoned in his own mind, his wife Mary, and his unnamed best friend. Throughout the book the characters’ lives are altered by their desire for a future with each other. Eden Malcom is unwilling to give Mary a child, yet names Mary’s unborn daughter Andromeda Malcom as the beneficiary of his life insurance while living at his wife’s address. Eden’s best friend’s love for his companions is expressed as he follows them through their lives, sharing stories with them, and telling their stories even after he dies in an explosion. Eden’s best friend secretly fathers Andromeda, and names Mary as the beneficiary of his life insurance without knowing who Eden named as his beneficiary. Eden’s best friend also keeps him close by not allowing Eden to quit the SEER school that they are enrolled in together. Mary keeps Eden near her by sleeping on the sofa in the hospital room while her mother raises Andromeda. She keeps Eden’s best friend close by talking to him often about Eden and having a child with him.

The story is told by Eden’s best friend as an omniscient narrator. Eden’s best friend is a fellow marine killed in the IED blast that left Eden unable to speak, and which severely burned his entire body. Eden’s best friend tells the story of their lives before and after the blast that prevented him from returning home. With ghostly abilities, he is able to describe all of the characters, events, and to tell their stories. The stories are enhanced by omniscient familiarity with their personal thoughts and knowledge of their experiences. He shares the characters’ thoughts of each other, the experiences they go through, challenges they face, and desires as they go through their lives.

Despite working with and around active duty and retired soldiers for decades I’m still reluctant to read books focused on war time. War stories leave indelible images etched in my mind as something I cannot unsee. This book imprints the same images with an admiration for the characters and their undying pursuit to be with one another. It keeps readers on the edge of their seats wondering what will happen next. Through to the last words, readers will find themselves connected to the characters wondering what will become of Eden, Mary, Andromeda, and Eden’s best friend. Readers will wonder if the story is realistic fiction and based on lives of real characters.

Ackerman is a former Marine Corps special operations team leader who graduated summa cum laude from Tufts University. He was awarded a Bronze Star, Silver Star, and Purple Hearts for his actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2018, Waiting for Eden was awarded the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s James Webb Award. His background gives him insight that allows him to develop vivid, memorable characters and tell their stories.

Ackerman’s fiction novel is a vivid suspenseful story likely to resonate with individuals dealing with war or loss or new age families. Told from the ghostly perspective of Eden’s lost best friend, we’re able to see into the thoughts of the characters as they navigate the challenges of a war-torn existence. Readers will be left feeling connected to the characters, left wondering what will happen with them, and left with compassion for the struggles of our servicemembers. The award-winning story will leave readers wanting a sequel.

Book Review written by: Kathy Kim Strand, MEd, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas