Friday, July 17, 2009

East Garrison by G.M. Weger

East Garrison spans only 222 pages, but G.M. Weger tackles numerous themes in this ambitious novel. The book takes place on and around the closed Army base Fort Ord in California, and there's a mountain lion prowling around the site. A young woman, Tracy Dade, is in the final days of her first pregnancy, and she has a lot on her mind. She's not quite stable, which can be blamed partly on hormones and partly on her screwed up relationship with her father, Jack.

Jack is a Vietnam vet suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He depends on a supply of marijuana that he grows here and there to make it through the day. He lives out of his dilapidated van with his old dog, Blondie, and moves around a lot. During the course of the book, he is parked on a rarely used road on Fort Ord tending to several pot plants he is growing in the woods. Jack is one messed up individual. He's long been fascinated with the German military, Hitler, Nazis, and especially the swastika, what it stood for before Hitler made it the symbol of the Nazi party and what it stood for after World War II.
He remembered his boyhood game of goose-stepping in his foster parents' cow field in Fresno with his black, knee-high leather boots. He would pretend he was a German soldier marching, marching, marching in one great glorious line of boys that went on as far as the eye could see. The war with Germany had been over almost a decade -- long enough for everyone to know the terrible things that had happened there -- but he was just an American boy with a fascination for the German military. He had no idea why. All he knew was it still made him quiver. That was what had brought him to the swastika, but even back then, there was more to it than just making a buck. There was something mystical in that tiny scratch mark of a symbol. It looked like a wheel with pieces broken off, or maybe a hooked cross. Hitler was brilliant to steal such a powerful image, and Jack was a genius to find a market for the fake militaria. His cup overflowed for a while.

It was much later that he discovered the swastika's true meaning of good fortune. For years he tried to explain the lucky nature of the symbol. Most people thought it was okay when it was pointed left and only Nazi when it was pointed to the right, when in fact it didn't matter which way it pointed. (page 3)
Jack sees ghosts -- particularly a Major General Fritzsche who is always barking orders at him in German -- and he's on a quest to understand the Truth. It was difficult to follow the scenes told from Jack's point of view because he's not in his right mind.

The only other characters mentioned in detail in East Garrison are Tracy's husband, Will, a federal police officer who does his best to strictly follow the law, and Angela, who works with Tracy at California State University Monterey Bay's Media Learning Complex and whose birth defect has prompted her to spend much of her time fighting for environmental causes.

Tracy is preparing herself for the birth of her child, and Angela gives her some books about the goddesses to help Tracy find the strength to get through the ordeal. When Tracy is in the beginning stages of labor, she decides that is absolutely the right time to seek out her father on the Army base to make amends. She wants to get rid of the anger and other emotions she feels for her father to clean the slate before her baby makes an entrance. Angela insists on accompanying her, and that's where things get messy -- literally.

I don't want to give more of the plot away, but I think it's important to note that readers with weak stomachs will want to avoid this book (along with those who can't read books where the animals don't come out okay). I didn't expect it to descend so fast into the gruesome, and I found myself having to close the book, close my eyes, and take a few deep breaths to keep from throwing up. This also is the point in the story when I knew I was going to have a hard time with this review.

Weger is a talented writer. She drew me in from the very first page with her cast of eccentric characters, and there were so many themes being explored -- impending motherhood, family relationships, marital tensions, environmental issues, the effects of war -- that I wasn't bored for a second. However, so much happened in the last 60 pages, and the tight structure just fell apart for me. I thought I was on Tracy's side, but I couldn't relate to her anymore. A hospital scene after Tracy gives birth was too unbelievable. And the final chapter was so all over the place with talk of faith and Truth and post-labor hormones that I was left scratching my head.

Overall, the book was only okay for me. The writing was good, the characters were interesting and fairly well developed, and it held my attention until the very end. But the ending left me feeling unsettled and unsatisfied.

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of East Garrison from Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for review purposes.

17 comments:

Blodeuedd said...

Oh no, I do not like books that becomes too much like that...and animals hurt. Hmm, I just don't know.
But great review

Sandy Nawrot said...

I have a pretty strong stomach, but when it comes to cruelty to animals, I falter. It wouldn't stop me from reading a book, but it is good to know so I could prepare myself. You seem a little ambivalent on this one, but I must say, I am intrigued. Love the cover too. I might just grab at this one if it crossed my path.

Serena said...

After hearing about this book from you and this review, I'm glad that I don't have this on my review shelf. I think I would have stopped reading.

Thanks for the honest review.

bermudaonion said...

I can handle a lot of things in books, but I don't like it when the animal doesn't come out okay. This sounds like a pretty heavy book.

Literary Feline said...

This book sounds very promising up until the end when the writing began to fall apart. I'll have to add this to my "maybe" wish list for further research into it.

Like Sandy, I love the cover.

Thanks for the great review, Anna!

pussreboots said...

Thanks for the review. You've piqued my interest. I'm going to add it to my wishlist.

naida said...

This does sound like an intense book. It would get me depressed I think. And I do have a weak stomach.
I do like the way you reviewed this one, it does sound like a difficult book to review.

http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

Staci said...

It sounds like there is so much going on in this one. I can stomach a lot but if the writing falls flat at the end then I would be mad at myself for making it all the way through only to end up being very disappointed!!!

Lisa said...

OK, I was still with you until the animals not coming out OK part. I can't handle animals getting hurt! Your review was fantastic, I just don't know if I could read this one.

Sheila DeChantal said...

Hi Anna - I have an award for you. Stop by when you have time - coffee is on! :)

Iliana said...

I'm not sure that this would be a book for me. It sounds very intense and well certainly not what I'm in the mood for now. Great review though and I really liked hearing about what worked and what didn't.

Anna said...

Blodeuedd: Thanks. I might have thought twice if I'd known what was going to happen.

Sandy: I hope you get a chance to read it. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Serena: I wouldn't pass it by just because it didn't work for me. You might actually enjoy it.

Bermudaonion: Heavy certainly is a good word for it. I still don't know what to think more than a week after finishing it.

Literary Feline: I really can't explain what happened toward the end. I don't recall ever being so blindsided by a book.

pussreboots: Please let me know if you read it. I'd love to hear someone else's thoughts. I haven't seen any other review of this one yet.

Naida: There's one scene in particular you probably wouldn't do too well with if you have a weak stomach. I don't consider myself to have one, and I could barely handle it.

Staci: It almost seems as though the author didn't know how to wrap things up. There was just too much going on in so little time and the very end wasn't very coherent.

Lisa: It's certainly not for everyone. I know how some people are when it comes to animal stories, so I thought I'd lay it out there.

Sheila: Thanks so much!

Iliana: Thanks! Seriously...intense is putting it mildly.

G.M. Weger said...

Hi. I'm the author. I wanted to clarify that it isn't cruelty to animals, or to be specific, one animal. It's a survival situation. The gross-out part too. I don't want to spoil anything for those who do read it. I've actually had many great reviews. Check out my website at www.gmweger.com. Also, I'd love to answer any questions about East Garrison. Thanks for the review and comments, even if it wasn't your favorite book. Best wishes! G.M. Weger

Anna said...

G.M. Weger: Thanks so much for stopping by. I really appreciate you taking time to join the discussion.

G.M. Weger said...

Hi Anna.
I'm glad to see what readers have to say about "East Garrison," and I'm very appreciative that you took the time to read and review it, even though you didn't care for it. Much of the story is true, which may surprise you. Jack is based on my father, who did live in his van for over a decade. He did sell fake Nazi memorabilia, and does smoke, although he has a medical license to do so. If you have any questions, as you can see, I'm open to discussion. Best wishes. G.M. Weger

Florinda said...

I have a review copy of this too, but haven't gotten to it yet, so I was interested in your take. Anyone who questions whether bloggers who receive review books give anything but rave reviews needs to come and read this.

Great review, Anna - informative, honest, and fair. Thanks!

Anna said...

G.M. Weger: Thanks! I appreciate your stopping by.

Florinda: Thanks. That means a lot to me. :)