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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.