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In An Empty Room: A Novel by Stephen Spotte

In An Empty Room: A Novel

by Stephen Spotte

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book was so unique and engrossing. I was a little afraid at the beginning that it would be too much of a 'guy book', but I needn't have worried. I was immediately drawn in to each man's story, not to mention the mystery further along in the book. Great read! ( )
  barb_heck | Jun 5, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I must confess I did not finish this book. Not the fault of the writing--it was good enough, maybe too good as the characters were well introduced, one at a time. But, suspecting these fine young men were probably going to get blown to pieces--killed or maimed for life, mentally and/or physically--saddened me so much I could not continue. That horrible war resulted in a terrible change in American life, the ramifications are still felt today. Nothing I can do about it, but sorry to say I want to stick my head in the sand and not think (or read) about it. ( )
  pegboss | May 26, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I found this book to be somewhat weird. It started off pretty normal, telling the story of a patrol in Vietnam from the viewpoints of the different people on the team. All of the characters were "real" and very relatable. Their dialogs with others and themselves were interesting and entertaining. I did find the LT somewhat strange but, being on his second tour, that was understandable as well. I found Injun to be the most interesting character of all and wish that had been developed more.

I enjoyed the beginning of the book. However, after the "incident" it became odd, in my opinion. The waking up in the hospital, in excruciating pain, and without any memory of who he was made sense. Some of the other things that happened while he was recuperating were just weird and didn't seem to have any place in the book. Going back to his hometown because he really had nowhere else to go also made sense. His actions and internal thought processes, the PTSD, everything made sense even though it wasn't as interesting to me as the beginning of the book.

I didn't find the conversations of the bar patrons interesting. In fact, I thought the second half of the book dragged on in tedium. I slogged through it hoping it would become interesting again. It didn't. The epiphany at the end didn't surprise me. I had figured it out shortly after he woke up in the hospital. His response to the epiphany did surprise me.

It was a decently written book and there weren't very many editorial errors in it. It just wasn't my cup of tea. I gave it 3 stars because someone else may enjoy it. ( )
  808anela | May 14, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is my honest review of the eARC I received from LibraryThing.

I remember my father leaving to fight in Vietnam; more importantly, I remember my father coming home from fighting in Vietnam. He was there for one year, and came back a haunted man in his mid-thirties. He was deeply affected by whatever happened to him, although he never said much. He passed away in 1981, only eleven years after returning. I want to learn about the Vietnam War because he cannot talk about what happened to him. Thus, the opportunity to read this, even though it is a work of fiction, was very appealing to me.

I really came to appreciate the individuals depicted in this novel. Each of them was unique, with quirks that we can easily recognize in those we love. They were responsible for killing the enemy, although they retained a certain innocence. It was easy to see that in them, and to remember how naive we all were about that war. We were only allowed to fight to a certain limit, and thereafter, had to ease off. We are seeing similarities in the wars we are fighting today, which makes this book very relevant.

The notion that someone can be injured beyond recognition seems impossible in this CSI age, but at the time, it was certainly possible. The damage caused to the memory by the event certainly made sense, too. Our brains are fragile, and the mystery within the story made it a compelling read. This was a wonderful work of fiction, and yet, it is easily something that might have happened. I recommend that you read this, but be prepared. Life is tough, and in this story, it surely isn't any easier. ( )
  ptkpepe98 | Apr 24, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is an unusual book, more character studies than the Vietnam War. It was interesting to read about the main characters - the rancher, the hillbilly, the Indian, the LT, the black kid with an interest in plants. It had very little to do with the war, though; mostly, we're taken into the lives of these people before they shipped overseas. Vietnam is there, for sure, but more of the story was devoted to the past than the present. I was beginning to wonder if the story was going to move along or not, and it wasn't until I got to the 51% point that "the event" finally happened.

Then, everyone in the platoon save one were killed instantly in a horrific explosion in a small Vietnamese village. The survivor, terribly maimed and disfigured, was confused and unsure of his name or who he was, and no one else knew, either. The doctor and patient eventually agree on which of the men in his platoon was most likely him, and after months of painful recovery in a VA hospital in Germany, he settles down in what must have been his hometown. He bought a house and lived a slow but manageable existence.

The rest of the book takes place in the town where he settled, spending most of his evenings at the local bar and pub, not able to talk and able to communicate only by nodding his head. The townspeople accepted his many disfigurements, wondering what he must have experienced while he was gone – and wondering who he was and whether it really even mattered. Like the first half of the book, this part is told from the POV of the characters in the town: the owner of the pub, the regulars who came every night for dinner, beers and conversation, and the disfigured veteran.

The chapters that took place in Vietnam were vividly described and I wish that there had been more of them. The way that each character spoke, peppered with regional dialects, was a nice addition. I did have a sense of what it must have been like for the soldiers who were there at the time, trudging through the jungle, avoiding tripwires and landmines, and hoping every day that they would live to see tomorrow.

It's a depressing read that seemed to slowly meander along, with a little too much "locker room talk," especially near the end, for my tastes. Most of the conversations were quite intelligent, bordering on philosophical, at times. Overall, it was written well and I only noticed a couple of minor grammatical errors. For me, it was a good book and I’m glad that I read it, but I don't think that I'd seek out another book by this author. ( )
  tumbleweeds | Apr 24, 2018 |
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