Elliot Ackerman’s novel Waiting for Eden is beautifully sad, subtly hopeful, and rich with questions that everyone should ask, even if satisfactory answers are out of reach. It may be short, but it is emotionally powerful, the kind of story that makes you cry—even if you’re in public. It is set in the hospital room of a wounded soldier who lies unconscious for years while his wife keeps vigil by his bedside and his dead best friend waits in some liminal space for whatever comes next. Ackerman, a veteran himself, illustrates the horrors of war, not by bringing the reader to the battlefield, but by showcasing the relatable, domestic ways that experiencing combat changes relationships and permeates every aspect of life. It is a heart-wrenching story about marriage and friendship that explores the complicated tangle of love, grief, and guilt and what happens when the lines between fidelity and betrayal become blurred.
In this interview for NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Ackerman talks about the three people at the center of the story, the universal nature of their experiences, and the emotion involved in both writing and reading.