Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Return to Eden

Tucker Smallwood

 RETURN TO EDEN is an exploration of one man's and one country's journey from the devastation of war through recovery to healing. Tucker Smallwood served in the U.S. Army Infantry, Airborne from 1967-1970. He commanded a Mobile Advisory Team during the Vietnam War and was severely wounded in action. After recovering from his injuries, Smallwood moved to New York to study acting, establishing a career as a performer on Broadway (Mahalia), in film (Contact, The Cotton Club) and on television (The X-Files, Space: Above and Beyond). Smallwood's essays reflecting upon his military experience have appeared in magazines, but this is the first published collection. There are more than fifty photographs, many from his tour of duty and from his return in 2004.

My Take:
I have to say that Return to Eden was a very interested compilation of essays.  The author's voice was strong and honest, drawing the reader in.  The essays are not presented in chronological order, and the OCD in me is driven crazy by that fact, while the artsy-fartsy lovin' side of me appreciates the value of things a little out of order.  Some of the essays are more powerful, interesting, or entertaining than others, but overall they send a clear message and create a strong appeal.  The essays are very casual, which also draws the reader in; the author's use of words such as "gonna" and "waaaay" feel very colloquial and inviting.  Tucker Smallwood's account of his experiences in Vietnam and beyond are very honest.  He discusses his battle with "survivors guilt" and gives an honest glimpse of what it's like to be one of those "familiar" actors.  You know the ones, you know the face but can never remember the name.  I myself recognized him from Star Trek :)  Another positive aspect of Return to Eden was the amount of pictures contained within it's pages.  It was fun putting faces to the names and seeing pictures of the men water skiing in Vietnam.  The pictures allowed the collection to be even more relatable.  The writing of this book is solid, I think it really just comes down to your interest in the subject matter itself.  While I believe PTSD and other themes discussed in this book are extremely important, they aren't necessarily my favorite to read about.  I really enjoyed this book, but it isn't 100% my cup of tea, I think if you are a veteran, you will especially love it.  3, Find a Used Book Store

Do you agree with my review?  Do you think I'm totally off base?  Either way I'd love to hear from you, be sure to leave a comment and tell me how you feel!

If Return to Eden were a movie, it would likely be rated R for strong language and war themed depictions of violence

A Few words with the author, Tucker Smallwood:

The Book Buff: When and did you begin writing?

Tucker Smallwood: I struggled with PTSD for several years in the mid - 80's and was persuaded to re-enter therapy in 1988.  My therapist strongly encouraged me to write down as many memories as possible from my time as a military adviser in Vietnam.

TBB: Sometimes, an author’s writing style is a unique as a fingerprint, do you have a specific writing style?

TS: I think so.  It's necessarily unique but my voice is irreverent, casual and informed by the eclecticism of my work and travels.  I write essays, exclusively.  I admire fine fiction but do not believe that I write it well.  I'm more comfortable with describing what I've encountered; my life path has been unusual and rather colorful.

TBB: How did you come up with the title, Return to Eden?

TS: I'd always regarded Vietnam as the most beautiful country I'd ever visited...and I had traveled extensively by that time.  Noticing the absence of bunkers, barbed wire and sandbags, the landscape suggested a return to an idyllic time before the barbarism of war.
TBB: Is there a message in Return to Eden that you want readers to grasp?

TS: War alters its participants.  Not all in an identical way but we are changed.  Each veteran must find a path to wellness and those around us, our friends and families would be served by a wider understanding of the insidious and pernicious effects of PTSD in our interpersonal relationships.

TBB: If you had to choose one book to read the rest of your life, and nothing else, what book would it be?

TS: I could never choose.  If confronted with the reality that only one book existed, at this point, I guess I'd become intimately familiar with that book.

TBB: If you could mirror the career of any other author, who would it be?

TS: I like my arc.  I'm in no hurry.

TBB: What is the interview question you always dread being asked? 

TS: Why don't you write fiction?  "Because I suck at writing fiction"  :)

To learn more about Tucker Smallwood and his book, Return to Eden, check him out at http://tuckersmallwood.com/

***FTC Disclosure:  This book was provided in exchange for an honest review, no other compensation was given, all opinions are my own***

If you are interested in purchasing Return to Eden, please consider supporting The Book Buff by purchasing from the following Amazon link, thanks!


Doreen McGettigan said...

I was not sold on the review but enjoyed the interview. I am going to get a few copies for some vets for Father's Day!

JP - The Mistress of Corgi Manor said...

This sounds like a very worthwhile book. So many people with similar experiences have taken a long time, if ever, to talk about it. I should check it out.
Jennifer Perry

{Amanda} said...

Hey! Thanks for your note on 20SB! Great to find a book blog; I love reading!

* http://donandamanda.blogspot.com *
Travel Tuesdays: Prague!

Chelsy said...

i love the concept of your blog, I'll be a frequent visitor!

Kathleen B. said...

Thanks so much for your welcome on Twitter Moms. This is a really good review and so in-depth. I was actually just given my first book to review today, so we will see how that goes when I am done with it.

Adgirl said...

You will be pleased to know that after reading this post last night I dreamt someone bought me the book. It's obviously a sign I should read it.


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