Our final day of #HardistyWeek and today I’m re-sharing my thoughts on the absolutely brilliant Turbulent Wake by Paul E. Hardisty. This book was my book of the year for 2019 but it was one of the most challenging to review – challenging because I didn’t know how to do it justice. Still don’t and I don’t want to try again as I still won’t get it right. Before I remind you how rambling my review was, here is what the book is about:
About the Book
Ethan Scofield returns to the place of his birth to bury his father. Hidden in one of the upstairs rooms of the old man’s house he finds a strange manuscript, a collection of stories that seems to cover the whole of his father’s turbulent life.Available from : Amazon | Waterstones | Kobo | Googleplay | Apple Books
As his own life starts to unravel, Ethan works his way through the manuscript, trying to find answers to the mysteries that have plagued him since he was a child. What happened to his little brother? Why was his mother taken from him? And why, in the end, when there was no one else left, did his own father push him away?
Swinging from the coral cays of the Caribbean to the dangerous deserts of Yemen and the wild rivers of Africa, Turbulent Wake is a bewitching, powerful and deeply moving story of love and loss … of the indelible damage we do to those closest to us and, ultimately, of the power of redemption in a time of change.
This book … This book has given me sleepless nights. Not for the normal reasons you would expect. It wasn’t horrific in content – it didn’t scare me into staying awake. It’s not even so much that it’s one of those ultra-addictive, high octane page turners where you just don’t want to turn away from the action for one moment, although it is one of those kinds of books, but in a wholly different way. No – this book has been giving me sleepless nights because of this, here, now. This review. I have to write it. God help me but somehow, I have to find the right words.
Turbulent Wake is just one of those books, the ones which are beautiful to read but so very difficult to quantify or do justice to when you try to tell people just why. And this is a book which deserves to have justice done when reviewing, partly because of the passion, the emotion and the beauty of the language which flows through each of the pages, but also because of how very personal a journey this is for the author just as much as the reader. If you read the author bio at the end of the book you will realise how much of his life he has actually poured into these pages, although where the lines cross between fact and fiction is not necessarily ours to know. I was lucky enough to hear Paul Hardisty talk about his book on a panel at Newcastle Noir, and the passion he displayed only really added to my sense of dread in sitting down to write a review.
This is the story of a family divided. Of a man, Ethan, who is separated from his daughter – a man so full of anger at his own estranged father, War, that he cannot see or think straight. Whose life has been so full of loss and tragedy that it has ultimately affected all of the relationships that he has known. We follow Ethan as he comes to terms with his father’s death, the catalyst for him finally finding out the truth as to why his father abandoned him many years before. But this is also War’s story, told to us through a series of short stories that he left for Ethan to read, stories which tell so much more of the man he was.
The story is told in parts, the present and the past. The present belongs to Ethan, told in his voice, and you can feel his rage building with every page turn, the anger rising like steam from the page. This anger is not just directed at his father, or his ex-wife, but at himself, his colleagues – even the world. He doesn’t seem to understand his rage, but he knows it is there within him and it is only really as War’s story unfolds that we start to fully understand Ethan too. Told in first person, the chapters are sharp, abrupt at times, but truly impactful as we feel everything that Ethan feels.|
The past belongs to War. War’s story is told in third person, written as something of a cross between a series of short stories and a journal. He refers to himself as ‘the Boy’ or ‘the Engineer’ keeping the reader, and Ethan, slightly detached from the action, but creating every bit as much an emotional and evocative read. You have within those pages War’s life story, from his own difficult relationship with his father, his painful and sometimes traumatic, even dark childhood experiences, his marriage to Ethan’s mother, the love of his life, Helena, and his life as an Engineer which takes him to some of the most beautiful but also the most dangerous places in the world. War experiences love, loss, war and destruction, all of which had been a complete mystery to Ethan. There are many things Ethan learns about his father which are hard to read, hard to comprehend, but as we see the passage from War as a young man so full of hope and ideals, to an older man, slightly embittered by his experience but also full of regret for all he has lost, you do begin to understand the rift that had opened up between father and son.
The language used in this story is, as is typical of a Paul Hardisty novel, highly poignant, often haunting, and full of emotional depth. It takes us seamlessly from lakeside cabins in Canada to the war-torn street of Yemen. From swimming with a young couple so full of love and hope for the future, to sitting in a cafe just as fellow patrons are torn apart by an IED. You can feel the change in atmosphere, heat, and tension between each scene just as surely as if you had been there yourself. The author has that great power to put you in the heart of the action, to feel the emotion of the characters, but also the silent beauty in those moments of stillness which permeate the story. For while there is a lot happening in this novel, a lot to digest, there are also moments of calm. The imagery is strong, everything used to great effect, from the swell of a tide, the tranquillity of the lakeside or the simple discovery by a young War of his father’s gun. All of it adds to the sense of dread, to the idea of change, of things being beyond the character’s ability to truly control their own destiny no matter how they might try,
As much as this is a story of family, at the heart of the novel is a very important socio-political and environmental message too. Not so overt as to put you off the story, but enough that it leaves a lasting impression on the reader, forcing you to think about the very nature of change. War’s career as an Engineer puts him at the heart of industrial change, sometimes for the good, often to the detriment of the very communities it purports to be helping. Fragile eco-systems destroyed in the name of creating perfect resorts, industry invading areas which would see the complete devastation of the indigenous people. It’s somewhat unsettling to realise how much of this is actually happening around the world, how much of real life has been injected into these pages and how great the impact development has had, and is still having, upon the world.
The author wants us to consider what makes a good life? Is it the friends we meet along the way, the career we chose to follow, or the family we create, the people we love? Are we ever fortunate enough to be able to know the answer to this question? I’m not sure I am yet. A bit like my thoughts about this review. Have I summed up the book well enough? I don’t know that either. Probably not. It’s really too hard to say.
For me this was a story about family – Father and Son – of their past transgressions and regrets. Of devastating loss and heartache. Of understanding gained as a result of a road once travelled and a lifetime of experience earned, both good and bad. Of a separation born of an inability to truly communicate and a fear of losing those you love, and ultimately of redemption and reconciliation, albeit a moment in time too late for War and Ethan. Most importantly, it’s about enlightenment and realising we still have the opportunity to change the life not yet led.
Turbulent Wake is a truly beautiful story and one which I would urge people to read as I think it’s probably the only way you can really understand what the book has to say. Lord knows I’m not as skilful with my words as the author and my ramblings can’t begin to convey what a special book this is.
About the Author
Canadian Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer,
hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia.
Author Links: Twitter
Books by Paul E. Hardisty