Fiction - Literary
236 Pages
Reviewed on 12/10/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite

Indivisible by Julia Camp is a serious book. You know a book is serious when there’s a suicide on page two and when tears are streaming down your cheeks on page three. Charlie and his best friend Wes enlisted together in the war in Afghanistan. The book opens some time after they’ve returned home to Houston, Texas. Charlie’s quest is to make some sense of Wes’s death, which takes place in the first pew of a Catholic Church. His struggle is the crux of the narrative, but Charlie has some other quests too—what to do in his once idyllic relationship with his longtime girlfriend Sarah, his fellow workers in a car shop, his parents, his older sister, Wes’s mother, not to mention his own future. Long before we get a glimpse of the war, we are neck-deep in its psychological results. Charlie is a living example of an affliction abbreviated as PTSD. There is almost nothing of which he can make sense, and Ms. Camp, with brilliant prose, immerses us right there with him one sentence at a time.

All war veterans deserve our respect and often our sympathy, but this book helps us see and especially feel why. Charlie is so very lost, and the simplest things confuse him; little conversations, simple everyday duties, all his relationships—even though he’s surrounded by people who love him. He, so oddly like Holden Caulfield, finds comfort only in little kids, especially his niece Anna. And he relates, though unsuccessfully, to challenging conundrums: “I’d probably never get far enough [in drawing] to realize I should start over.” Or, echoing Hemingway, “Maybe someday the things that break us are also the things that put us back together.” I kept waiting for the Afghanistan scene that caused Charlie’s and Wes’s life-changing depression, scenes that have often become clichéd in such novels—the savage moment of horrific conflict. In Julia Camp’s gut-wrenching book, we wait a long time for that scene, but she wants to avoid clichés and saves the crucial action sequence for the exact point at which it must appear. It resolves nothing for Charlie and the others in his world—the lingering question for me is, does anything in our world make sense? Like all great works of art—Hamlet, say—there are no answers. Great works leave us with questions, not resolutions. They don’t satisfy; they provoke. They change us. Indivisible has left me with all those questions I thought I’d solved long ago. It’s a serious thing to ask those questions, and Indivisible is a serious book.

Grant Leishman

Indivisible by Julia Camp is a searing portrayal of the difficulties so many young men and women face when trying to reintegrate into society after serving their country on the field of battle. Wes and Charlie were the archetypal healthy, young and patriotic American kids and best buddies for life. For Charlie, everything was laid out in front of him, just waiting for him to grab it. An academic and sporting high achiever, with a beautiful, smart and intelligent girlfriend, he really did have it all and with college beckoning and his dream career in Aerospace Engineering, everything was going perfectly. When his best friend/soul brother, Wes, suggested, after high-school graduation, that they enlist in the Army, Charlie’s perfect future began to spin out of control. Wes and Charlie served in different units in Afghanistan but both came home with similar difficulties and anxieties. Nothing ever seemed to fall into place again for these two young men and when Wes commits suicide, Charlie is left to ponder the whys of his best friend’s deadly decision along with trying to repair the broken fabric of his own life. Despite Charlie and Sarah trying hard to reestablish the life together they had before, everything seems hard and complicated from Charlie’s perspective. Somehow Charlie needs to move on from the mess that Afghanistan has created in his, his family’s, and his best friend’s life, but the question remains – how?

Indivisible is a heart-wrenchingly sad, all too real portrayal of lives defined and forever changed by war. With close to 20 million veterans in the US alone, Charlie's and Wes’ experience is certainly pertinent and possibly reflected in many lives. Author Julia Camp has written a heart-rending story of loss and grief that any reader can readily identify with. Wes and Charlie could be any one of us; our brothers, our sons or even ourselves. We can all readily identify with these young men; full of bravado and success as young men, who go to war and come back profoundly broken and changed. For me, the most telling line in the book was when Charlie admitted in a moment of introspection that he was literally terrified every second of every day he was in Afghanistan. This is the reality of war on us average human beings, those that have to fulfill the lofty ideals and grandiose schemes of politicians and generals. The author did a fantastic job of conveying this insight to her readers. It is a testament to the author’s ability that she was able to draw Charlie simultaneously as a character that we sympathized and empathized with but also got extremely annoyed with and wanted, at times, to just grab by the collar and tell him to “snap out of it”. It was perhaps Charlie’s sister that best epitomized the unending love, support, guidance and occasional dose of tough love that Charlie needed to guide him through this incredibly difficult period of his life. This story is a real eye-opener into the psyche of returning veterans and one I enjoyed tremendously. I can highly recommend this book.

Rabia Tanveer

Indivisible by Julia Camp is a story of strength and knowing that sometimes you have to hold on to be able to move forward. The story follows Charlie as he tries to come to grips with what has happened. Coming back from Afghanistan is hard enough, but losing his best friend Wes is what makes him feel lost. Wes committed suicide, and Charlie cannot get over it. On the surface, Wes was happy, but something happened to make him take his own life. No matter how hard he tries, Charlie cannot move on. He cannot connect with Sarah, he is slowly losing his mind, and the only thing that will make him better is to find out why his friend decided to take his life. Wes’s life turns out to be a mystery and the deeper Charlie delves into it, the more baffling it becomes. Can he find out what happened to Wes? Will Charlie ever be able to move on.

Indivisible is emotional yet very inviting. Charlie's character is relatable; he is the kind of character you empathize with. His emotions are running high from the moment the story opens, and you can feel his pain. Julia Camp does a great job of conveying the desperation and helplessness Charlie feels. He feels disconnected from the world, from Sarah, and himself. His PTSD catches up to him, and his issues are fueled by the death of his best friend. The narrative is simple yet perfect for the story. The author allows the reader to feel like a part of the story and easily picture what is happening. The mystery behind Wes’s death and Charlie’s journey to come to grips with why his friend takes his life resonates with readers. This was the catharsis that he badly needed to move on. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves a good, heartfelt story.