Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review: Wake by Anna Hope

Anna Hope's Wake is a touching and moving account of the affects of war on men and women alike. The book opens by defining what the word wake means:
(1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep
(2) Ritual for the dead
(3) Consequence or aftermath

Each definition can be used in one way or another to describe the characters Ada, Evelyn, and Hattie as we watch their stories unfold as the unidentified body of a World War I soldier is brought home to be buried. It is the two-year anniversary of Armistice Day and the excitement, fear, and dread of what it means brings each women on a paths that are only separated by a few men.

Ada is the mother of a young soldier named Michael. She mourns his death and walks around seeing his face in every young man that she sees on the streets. She is in a sort of dead sleep. She doesn't even see that she is a fraction of the person she once was. All she can accept is the guilt she feels for allowing her young son to go to war.

Evelyn works for a government that has long stopped caring for their veterans, meaning she works where stipends are to be provided to injured (or out of work) soldiers. She too is in a rut having lost her only love to war. Her brother, Edward, served in the army as a captain and has shown a clear difference since coming home from war. At one point they were so close but he seems much more distant. The truth is far worse than she knows. They both wander in the consequence of their lives after war.

The third woman, Hattie, is young and works as a dancer. She is paid to dance with men whenever they pay her boss. She shares those earnings with a volatile mother, and mute brother. He's barely spoken since the war. Hattie is unaware of the trauma he's been through and yearns for her brother to be whole again.

The characters in Wake can each define their lives in the before and after of war. This is the way that many can identify their lives. I had a friend who served in Iraq. She was 20 when she left. A vibrant, loving girl, unafraid of what was in store for her. She returned with a serious drug problem, a son, and only a few years to live. I identify with these men and women wholly, and I'm nothing more than a witness... a mere bystander.

Although the novel is written about a horrific time in history, Anna Hope manages to write poetically, vividly, and clearly. Wake doesn't read like a debut which is an awesome feat for any author coming out the gate. Even when I had to stop reading to take care of my own personal life, and ironically, plan my father's wake, the moment I picked it back up, I was once more gripped in the lives of each character. I couldn't wait to see how their stories tied into each other. And ohhhhh did they...

Overall, Wake is a beautifully written debut novel that fans of historic fiction will need to read. It's not a super sappy women's only novel that gets tiring as it describes one flighty woman after another but rather a journey for emerging from sleep. I loved this novel and hope that Hope (no pun intended) writes more like it.  ****

Copy provided by Random House via a Goodreads Giveaway

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