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An NPR Great Read of 2013
This stunning debut novel opens in May 2011, when Sara’s son, Jason, has been missing for nine days following a Special Operations Forces mission that took place the same night as the bin Laden raid. Knowing nothing more about Jason’s fate than the reporters camped out in front of her Pennsylvania farmhouse, Sara—an editor who immersed herself in all things military after her son became a Naval officer—is determined to discover what’s happened. Through letters and flashbacks, this haunting novel reveals the profound bond between a mother and her son, as it raises fundamental questions about life choices, the military, war, and service to one’s country. With dazzling talent and a unique voice, Lea Carpenter tells a thrilling and unforgettable story.
“Masterful. . . . Lea Carpenter’s debut novel, Eleven Days, tells a story that is at once timeless and also grounded in the very real vicissitudes brought about by current events. . . . She has written a tremendous novel that serves as a valuable contribution to our nation’s literature about warfare.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A deeply affecting story about a mother and a son that attests to the debut of an extraordinarily gifted writer. . . . 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.” —The New York Times
“In simple but stirring prose . . . an elegant meditation on the love between a mother and son whose worldviews changed forever after 9/11, in very different ways.” —Entertainment Weekly
“A novel of stillness and reflection. . . . Carpenter’s greatest accomplishment here may be her success at creating an Olympian warrior who seems entirely human, modest and decent. . . . 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.” —The Washington Post
“Carpenter provides a convincing portrait of an exclusive and exclusively male military subculture.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Assured debut. . . . [An] affecting portrayal of maternal love at a time of war.” —Vogue
“Carpenter’s incisive, graceful novel is certain to vault to the top of any list of high quality literature about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” —The Daily Beast
“A compelling story made memorable by the strength of its elegant prose.” —Toni Morrison, author of Home
“The finest analysis of special operations I have ever read.” —Ambassador Frank G. Wisner
“Eleven Days is a powerful, moving read: Jason and his Argonauts reborn as Navy Seals. But it is far more than just a compelling story; it’s a window onto the new world of 21st century warfare.” —Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of Keeping Faith with our Values in a Dangerous World
“What Denis Johnson did for the Vietnam War in Tree of Smoke, Lea Carpenter does for Iraq and Afghanistan in her superb Eleven Days. She drills deeply into the culture and lore of special operations warfare, and just as deeply into the minds of the people—the military-intellectual complex, if you will—who ultimately determine the American way of making war. But 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
“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.” —Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds
“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
“Not only a dramatic, affecting and wholly original story about war from a woman’s point of view but an incisive look at the experience of special operations.” —Doug Stanton, author of In Harm’s Way and Horse Soldiers
“Powerful, moving and beautifully written, this story of a mother and her son shows us how 9/11 has changed our lives forever.” —Bob Kerrey, author of When I Was a Young Man
“Filled with characters who exist on the edge of emotion. . . . Poignant prose and an impeccably structured narrative.” —Publishers Weekly
“Assured. . . . 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