Eleven Days

It's tough to earn the Trident badge of the Navy SEAL, but for real toughness, a medal should go to the single mother whose only child joins the SEALs. That is the premise of Lea Carpenter's memorable debut novel, Eleven Days--a story about smart, sensitive Sara who becomes pregnant at 19 with Jason. Five years after his birth, Jason's enigmatic military father "disappears," leaving Sara to raise their son alone.

She is a freelance editor of government documents who hopes to inspire Jason toward study in "English, business, law: the late 20th century's most glittery trifecta." Jason, however, is drawn first to the Naval Academy, then to the SEAL ideal of one who "did the right thing, did it quietly, and did it well." Eleven Days opens on the day that Sara is notified that Jason is missing from a sensitive, clandestine "no prisoners, no losses" mission.

Carpenter (a columnist for BigThink.com) knows the details of Special Warfare training. As much as Eleven Days is the tale of Jason's military evolution, though, it is more Sara's story. Carpenter deftly chronicles her waiting: the rote gardening, the daily running, the mindless editing work, the sleepless nights trying to read--all to stem "the scope creep of her chaos." Sara must make peace with both the life her son chose and the life she has chosen for herself. Like any peace, that is not easy to achieve. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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