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A stunning debut novel - unexpected, tautly written, suspenseful - that touches on some of the most profound questions we have about war as it tells us a haunting story of a single mother, and her son, a member of the US Special Operations Forces.
Eleven Days is, at its heart, the story of a mother and a son. It begins in May 2011: Sara's son Jason has been missing for nine days in the aftermath of a special operations forces mission. Out of devotion to him, Sara - smart, modest, tough-minded - has made herself knowledgeable about things military, but she knows nothing more about her son's disappearance than the press corps camped out in her driveway.
But this is also the story of the current generation of special operations forces and what drives them. Jason is brought up by his mother in a small town in Pennsylvania away from the complications of Washington where Sarah met his father, a man who claimed to have been a writer but who died, according to 'insiders,' helping to make the country safer. Jason is an extraordinary boy who decides, on 9/11, to forego his mother's ambitions for Harvard in favour of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, after which he enters into the toughest military training in the world: for the U.S. Naval Special Warfare's Navy SEAL Teams. Through letters Jason wrote his mother while training, we see him becoming a strong, compassionate leader. But his fate will be determined by events that fall outside the sphere of his training, and far outside the strong embrace of his mother's love.
The novel weaves together years of Jason's training with agonising days in the life of Sara as she waits for news of him. The book considers a classic question: why do nations send sons to wars and how can mothers bear it? Page-turning and haunting, this is an astonishing debut which questions the very nature of sacrifice and love.
About the Author
Lea Carpenter graduated from Princeton and has an MBA from Harvard. She was Founding Editor for Francis Ford Coppola's literary magazine, Zoetrope as well as Deputy Publisher of The Paris Review until 2005. She lives in New York with her husband and their two sons where she produces programming for the New York Public Library. This is her first novel.
Toni Morrison is a fan of this novel by one of the original editors of Francis Ford Coppola's lit mag Zoetrope. The story of a boy who applies to naval academy after 9/11 and then goes missing the same night of the Bin Laden raid. Think Homeland in fiction form and you get some idea of the twists and turns of this novel about the military and the nature of sacrifice and love. Viv Groskop, Red Magazine [An] earnest first novel ... Carpenter provides a convincing portrait of an exclusive and exclusively male military subculture, and of the men formed and deformed by it. New York Times What Denis Johnson did for the Vietnam War in Tree of Smoke, Lea Carpenter does for Iraq and Afghanistan in her superb Eleven Days. At the core of this extraordinary novel is the love of a mother for her child. That's the story of us all, and that's the story that may well break your heart. Ben Fountain, author of BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK Lea Carpenter's Eleven Days is an extraordinary accomplishment. Written with an elegant precision, this book is at its core a story about love: between a mother and a son, a son and a father, and a special group of men for each other and the imperfect country they choose to serve. I highly recommend it. Kevin Powers, bestselling author of THE YELLOW BIRDS A compelling story made memorable by the strength of its elegant prose. Toni Morrison A superb novel of war, love and US special forces. Simon Sebag Montefiore, London Evening Standard (Books of the Year 2013) A deeply affecting story about a mother and a son that attests to the debut of an extraordinarily gifted writer... Ms. Carpenter makes palpable the immensely complicated emotional arithmetic that binds this mother and son - Sara's cherishing of her only son and her knowledge that she needs to let him find his own way in life; Jason's worries about his mother's worries, clashing up against his passionate embrace of a dangerous profession. In doing so Ms. Carpenter has written a novel that maps - much the way that Jayne Anne Phillips's classic Machine Dreams and Bobbie Ann Mason's In Country did - the fallout that war has not just on soldiers, who put their lives on the line, but also on their families, who wait anxiously back home. Michiko Kakutani, New York Times Every soldier was, once, someone's child. With this ineluctable truth at her story's core, Lea Carpenter has crafted a beautiful, and original, work of art. Eleven Days manages to be both a meditation on courage and a gripping read. Scholarly and stylish, displaying a capacious mind and even greater heart. A magnificent debut. Alexandra Styron, author of READING MY FATHER An exceptional debut. Bookbag The most remarkable aspect of Eleven Days is the fact that Carpenter depicts the civil-military divide without a hint of irony, instead choosing to tell her story with deep heart and conviction, not unlike the sense of duty that Jason exhibits throughout the book. World Policy Journal blog A stark debut... Written in simple but stirring prose, it's an elegant meditation on the love between a mother and son. Entertainment Weekly With poignant prose and an impeccably structured narrative, Carpenter's novel is the sweet pitch before the violin screeches; the concluding state of reverence for a world we can't control and a song for the war in Afghanistan that provides comfort without reason. Publishers Weekly Stripped of either satire or extreme violence, [Eleven Days] lingers on the cold inevitabilities of conflict, which makes it a highly moral anti-war novel without noisily announcing itself as such... This well-turned story packs plenty of emotion. Among the smartest of the batch of recent American war novels. Kirkus reviews ...a beautifully written debut. Herald Sun Melbourne ...good writing and a great story. Weekend Australian ...full of insight and grace. Sydney Morning Herald Carpenter raises searching questions about what the US has embarked on and notions of honour and courage... poised and gently melancholic... ultimately, this is a tale of a mother and son's unbreakable bond. Metro Riveting and deeply moving - every mother should read this. Frances Osborne, author of PARK LANE & THE BOLTER Eagerly awaited Guardian somber yet moving... an ode to manhood, to motherhood, to the modern warrior and perhaps most compelling an ode to heroics. Huffington Post Carpenter's intelligence and sincerity find powerful expression in the novel's sophisticated structure... This story reminds us that each of these warriors, no matter how brave and tough and deadly, is still some woman's beloved son. Washington Post [An] incisive, graceful novel which is certain to vault to the top of any list of high quality literature about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan... Good fiction like this bears emotional authority that transcends the question of whether something "could" occur... Carpenter's writing is resonant in a way that doesn't call attention to itself, but builds upon itself, sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter, to serve the whole of the book... Perhaps one of the most impressive-and unconventional-qualities of Eleven Days is the lack of a traditional antagonist. That's assuredly intentional. This isn't an "us" versus "them" narrative. It's about the nature of mythology, how it's shaped, why it's crafted, and what it does to us as a culture and society... With searing, sometimes uncomfortable truths like that found throughout Eleven Days, Lea Carpenter has written a novel that matters. Daily Beast Exhaustively researched and skilfully written...Carpenter tells an important story - Eleven Days has all the precision and artistry of the Navy SEALs she depicts... precise, considered prose... the novel pays a necessary tribute to those who risk the ultimate sacrifice and the loved ones left to come to terms with that loss... a gut-wrenching tale of grief. Stylist An assured debut novel... [An] affecting portrayal of maternal love at a time of war. Vogue The nature of courage, sacrifice, love and heroism are all considered in this powerful ... debut. For all its Hollywood sheen, it is as determined to educate as it is to entertain. It's a mission that Lea Carpenter executes coolly in precise and elegant prose. Daily Mail
Number Of Pages: 288
Published: 25th June 2013
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 21.5 x 13.5 x 2.1
Weight (kg): 0.31
Edition Number: 1