Title: Devastation Road
Author: Jason Hewitt
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Release Date: July 3, 2017
Read on: July 7, 2017
A deeply compelling and poignant story that, like the novels of Pat Barker or Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong, dramatises the tragic lessons of war, the significance of belonging and of memory – without which we become lost, even to ourselves.
Spring, 1945: A man wakes in a field in a country he does not know. Injured and confused, he pulls himself to his feet and starts to walk, and so sets out on an extraordinary journey in search of his home, his past and himself.
His name is Owen. A war he has only a vague memory of joining is in its dying days, and as he tries to get back to England he becomes caught up in the flood of refugees pouring through Europe. Among them is a teenage boy, Janek, and together they form an unlikely alliance as they cross battle-worn Germany. When they meet a troubled young woman, tempers flare and scars are revealed as Owen gathers up the shattered pieces of his life. No one is as he remembers, not even himself – how can he truly return home when he hardly recalls what home is?
After the lighter, boisterous Blackstone, Devastation Road offered a more grounded, sobering look at after time in history, World War II. And not just WWII but the people who are not often remembered in the re-tellings of that time: the people who lost their homes, their families, themselves.
Owen is the protagonist of this tale. He awakens in a field, unable to remember much about his life. He begins to recall bits and pieces of his life, all while trying to find his way back home. He knows he is English, he can remember family members and other people important to him, but he cannot piece it all together. Hewitt does a great job of making the reader feel the frustration of Owen as pieces of his life return to him while others disappear again. It’s Owen’s short-term memory that is most affected. He ha to rite things down to ensure he remembers them.
Along the way, he meets Janek, a young Czech searching for his revolutionary leader brother, Petr. He also meets up with Irena, a young mother unsure of how to raise her son in this post-war world.
As this trio (as well as the baby, named Little Man by Owen) make their way through what remains of Europe after this war, they learn a lot about one another. Sometimes too much. This is less a story about the war as it is a story about the people left behind and how they can possibly continue after such, well, devastation.
I really enjoyed this story. Hewitt doesn’t shy away from the difficult glimpses into each of the main characters lives. The decisions made by each of these people are not always popular, but they are made by people who feel there is no other option. That may be the biggest tragedy of all: those left behind to make sense of this new world.
4 of 5 Big Bald Heads.
*Thanks to Little, Brown and Company and NetGalley for the copy of this novel*