Retro Friday: The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

Since I got my copy of The Road Home from Angie herself, I thought it would be appropriate to do a Retro Friday post about it. Angie is a huge fan of Ellen Emerson White and it’s because of her and Michelle that I picked up the President’s Daughter series. I’m not done with that series but I decided to read this one because I couldn’t wait to find out the goodness inside.

Here’s the summary from Ellen Emerson White’s website:

Lieutenant Rebecca Phillips went to Vietnam as a nurse, to heal and give comfort, and maybe to find answers. The war had torn her family apart and she wanted to know why. But there were no answers for her in Vietnam – only more questions.

When Rebecca returns to the U.S., her war still isn’t over. For only when she’s home is she able to confront the horrific realities she experienced during her tour of duty. To piece her life back together, Rebecca travels across the country in search of hope, of forgiveness… of the way home.

I don’t usually go for books set during war-time. More so for this one because it’s about the Vietnam war, a time in history which I know nothing about. However, if a book comes highly recommended by someone I trust, I can’t help but give it a try. Plus, Angie sent a copy already so the least I could do was read the book, right? 🙂 The Road Home has two sections: the first part deals with Rebecca working as a nurse in Vietnam and the second part is about her coming back home to the States. I thought The Road Home was a standalone novel but looking at Ellen Emerson White’s website, it looks like she wrote a series called The Echo Company which focuses on a certain soldier’s experiences in Vietnam and Rebecca comes into the picture in the latter books. This is probably why when I was reading The Road Home, I felt like I came into the middle of the series.

As the story starts, Rebecca is working in an American hospital in Vietnam. She’s a Radcliffe-educated nurse straight out of college and she signed up mainly because of issues with her family. It sort of felt like things already happened to Rebecca and the book is dealing with the aftereffects of those events but I didn’t really mind. Rebecca’s helicopter was shot down in the jungle and she was MIA for a couple of days until she meets a squad of American soldiers and one of them, Michael, becomes a close friend. Based on hints throughout the novel, Rebecca used to be a cheerful and lively girl and everything changed when she was lost in the jungle. Mostly she runs on autopilot as she tries to save lives when she doesn’t even understand the point of it all. During her remaining time in Vietnam, we see her struggle to connect with other people: the Chief Nurse Major Doyle, Michael and even her mother and father through letters.

The Road Home is more than just Rebecca’s story of coming back from Vietnam. It’s about coming to terms with everything that she encountered while she was there and trying to understand how she’s going to go on living when so many people died. Rebecca lost touch with herself when she went off to join the Army and this novel is about her finding herself again. The characters are believable and real – from their experiences during the war to how lost they were after they came back. It’s an understatement that it’s difficult to overcome the horrors of war. Your heart will break several times over while you’re reading this one but I think it’s worth reading. The last few chapters are my favorite part of the novel, when Rebecca decides to go on a road trip. Plus the ending? *sigh* It’s perfect for the story. So again, I thank Angie for encouraging me to read a book that I normally wouldn’t have picked up. I never thought I’d find comfort in a novel about war. I’m baffled that the book is out of print because it deserves to be read by more people.

Other reviews from Goodreads:
Angie
Michelle
Holly

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12 thoughts on “Retro Friday: The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White

  1. Wow, I got really lucky in finding this at a library book sale! It was buy a bag of books for a 1$ so I was just tossing all the YAs in my bag. Who knew I’d strike gold my grabbing this one.

    SO YAY for you posting this review, I’m so excited to read a book I already own!

    • April, you got really lucky! That’s a great find. 🙂 I’m so jealous that you get to buy a bag of books for only $1. I hope you get to read this soon because I’d love to know what you think of it.

  2. This is a lovely review Chachic! I couldn’t help but thinking what a heartbreaking book this would be while reading your review, and there at the very end you said the same thing!

    Off to hunt for a copy of this book!:)

    • Celina, it’s not an easy book to read but for some reason, I didn’t really have a hard time reading this one. I read it straight through. Which is funny because I didn’t even notice I was sick until I finished the book. I hope you do find a used copy somewhere. 🙂

  3. It’s so heartwrenching yet I didn’t have trouble reading it either. You are just rooting for Michael and Rebecca the whole way. The road trip and ending are so rewarding. Love it.

    I’ve meant to read the other books in the series but never got around to it. I think I may have to now. I want to know what happened in the jungle and see Michael and Rebecca meet for the first time.

    • Holly, rewarding is the right word to describe the whole novel. Yes, once you start reading this, you’ll be rooting for both Rebecca and Michael.

      The other books in the series are out of print as well, right? Although you’re right, it would be great to see how Rebecca and Michael meet for the first time in the jungle.

  4. Oh man! You do my heart good to hear how much you liked this one. Rebecca’s story is just incredible. I have re-read those last few chapters on her ‘road trip’ so many times cause they truly are beautiful. Especially when Michael says that he wants to take a turn at taking care of her for once. ::swoon::

    I especially liked Rebecca’s connection with the Foxy Major. Their relationship required major mental gymnastics on my end, but I was just blown away by the depth of emotions every single one of there conversations contained. Love it all.

    And yes! Do track down the Echo company books. I originally read them through the library, but have been slowly buying them off ebay ever since. I now have all except for #4 — which I guess everyone else wants too cause it’s like $50-100. Yikes!

    • I re-read the last few chapters too because those were my favorite parts! Michael and Rebecca were both damaged by the war but I think they’re perfect for each other.

      Whenever the Foxy Major and Rebecca talked, I felt like I wasn’t smart enough to be listening in on their conversation. LOL but I really enjoyed their encounters. I love that the Foxy Major decided to stop being unhappy and do something about it.

      Oh my, really, it’s that expensive? Maybe I should just hope that they’ll reprint the Echo Company books like they did the President’s Daughter books?

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