Where Honesty Never Ends.
Genre: War Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Greetings! The Review Board here. Before our reviewers share their thoughts on My War with Hemingway, check out the blurb as well as this important bulletin.
Blurb (via mywarwithhemingway.blogspot.com): Zach, a young veteran, contemplates suicide after a horrific tour in Afghanistan when Ernest Hemingway appears and stops him. He enrolls in college where he falls in love with Jessica, a young woman from a wealthy family. Her love stabilizes him, and Hemingway’s appearances become less frequent, until she doesn’t return to school after break. He confronts her father who tells him he is not to see her again. Alone, haunted by the wars, and with his friend Hemingway pestering him, he descends into alcoholism. Teaming up with one of Zach’s army buddies, and in defiance of her parents, Jessica searches for him. But will they find him in time to save his life? And is her love enough to help him find redemption?
Note: As of this posting, we have looked to see if there are any purchasing links associated with this title. In the past, there was an Amazon Author Page and primary websites associated with this particular author (mywarwithhemingway.com and jcarlington.com), but the former (Amazon Author Page) has since disappeared and the latter (both websites) is no longer functioning. We even visited the publishing house’s website where this work is supposed to be showcased (Rogue Phoenix Press) but with no results. It doesn’t even list him as one of their authors.
The Review Board is not sure what has taken place nor has the author contacted us to provide any updates. When we receive them, we will update this entry, but until then, we have a review to do.
This copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
First, let’s have the Wordsmith weigh in.
My War with Hemingway follows Zach, a post-Iraqi and Afghanistan war veteran hounded by his experiences in the wars and the aftermath of such violence. True to the blurb, Zach contemplates suicide while on leave, still active duty and haunted by the losses he’s suffered, and is visited by a man calling himself Stein. This man turns out to be Ernest Hemingway and turns out to be a consistent character in the book, preventing Zach from committing suicide and setting the stage for the rest of the drama to unfold.
I spent the vast majority of the book wondering about Stein/Hem’s purpose in the story – how Zach continually meets up with him, often in foreign countries, and physically engages with him. Since Hemingway is clearly dead, and Zach knows that, he too is clueless about how it all works, or why he sees Hem at varying ages and at different stages of the writer’s life, and rarely in a linear time fashion. He simply comes to accepts and then comes to expect and depend upon the recurring visitations.
I also wondered about the title. What kind of war was waged between Zach and Hemingway? I’m still not entirely sure, thinking perhaps a greater familiarity with Hemingway’s life as a man, husband, author and a coterie of other titles might have served me well in understanding the psychological symbolism Hem played for Zach.
This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the book. Putting all my questions aside, I was quickly drawn in by Zach’s character and the first person point of view. Not an alcoholic or combat duty war veteran myself, Charles writes with such intimate description and familiarity that personal experience is unnecessary in order to relate to Zach and his struggles. Charles brings Zach to vivid emotional life and transports us along as his main character tries to do right for so many others yet can’t seem to stop drinking, or recognize that the alcohol is the biggest reason for his continual downward spiral. I enjoy a book that allows me to emotionally connect with and understand a character even if they come from an entirely different walk of life, and this book did that for me.
I also have to say I wasn’t satisfied with the ending. While overjoyed at romantic reunions, I found the ending rushed and wrapped up a little too nicely, directly contrasting the lengthy struggles Zach went through. Charles gives us a succinct conclusion; offering up details in the manner of catching up an old friend by glossing over the gory details of a hard life lived, explaining all of Zach’s troubles away through psychological terminology and diagnoses. Even with these diagnoses and a fairly good layman’s understanding of them, I had a hard time digesting and accepting Zach’s motivations for abstaining from alcohol and the truncations of his treatment and efforts at establishing and maintaining his sobriety due solely to the truth of why his beloved Jessica left.
This is an unfortunate read for me. While I enjoyed it, I feel like I missed the point the author was trying to convey, particularly if that point extends beyond an unabashed intimate look into the mind of a war veteran suffering from PTSD and alcoholism. For that I applaud the author for such a raw, candid perspective. What fell short for me was the intimate association with Hemingway and what parallels Charles was trying to communicate in this plot device. This may have nothing at all to do with the author himself or the writing, but, again, a lack of familiarity with Hemingway.
On a more positive and closing note, this book did pique my interest in Hemingway’s works and life, so bonus points make up partially for what was missing for me.
I give My War With Hemingway 8 stars out of 10.
Now let’s get thoughts from Harmony Kent.
Zachary Powell is a veteran of both the Afghanistan and the Iraq wars. After a traumatic final tour, he returns to the US and to civilian life. He contemplates suicide one night, in a dingy hotel room, when Ernest Hemingway appears and prevents him from going through with it. Eventually, he meets a woman who he falls in love with, and his visits with “Hem” are much less frequent. All is not as well as it seems, however, and soon enough Hem is appearing all over the place. Zach struggles with alcoholism and unacknowledged depression.
I loved this book from page one. I felt sure this first read of 2015, on behalf of The Review Board, would merit a sure Ten out of Ten—sadly, it went down hill quickly. Not because of the plot or character development. These remained excellent throughout.
What has let this book down, which has so much potential, is silly spelling mistakes and missing words. It doesn’t appear to have been given even the most cursory of proof reads. The writing is overly passive, but being in First Person POV and present tense this doesn’t stand out as much as it can in other POV’s and tenses. However, the writing style would still have merited a good Eight out of Ten.
But the sheer number of errors is simply unacceptable. A book should never be published in this state. It is also in need of a copy-edit, to correct punctuation, etc. There are also quite a lot of comma splices, and delaying the action unnecessarily with the overuse of “began to”/”Started to” formulations, and unannounced scene shifts in places.
In all but one of the dialogues, words were doubled up … such as: “I dunno know.” And “Get me outta of this.” The spelling of the main character’s name switches between “Zach” and “Zack”.
All in all, there were just too many mistakes. This is a good length book, and it is simply flooded with these errors.
As it stands, I award Six out of Ten stars using the TRB rating scale, which equates to Three out of Five stars on other review sites (such as Goodreads). The story is great, and authentically told, but it was let down by a complete lack of proofreading or editing. I can see this book achieving an easy top ranking with a little more work.
If you like war stories/veterans at home, then you will love this book—especially if you can overlook the errors. James Charles is an author to watch.
Taking both reviewers’ scores and dividing by two, My War With Hemingway receives 7 out of 10 Stars from The Review Board.
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