Book Review: Alone In The Light by Benjamin Bass

Book: Alone In The Light
Author: Benjamin Bass
Genre: Literary Fiction, War Fiction

Book Overview

6,000 miles away from the explosion in Iraq that took his leg, Josh Carpenter struggles to reclaim his former life as a college student.

Mary Fischer, a civilian for the first time in years, strikes out on her own to create a new, independent life away from the army, and her controlling mother.

The last time Josh saw Mary, his National Guard unit was leaving Camp Wolf, headed north to the war in Iraq.

The last time Mary saw Josh, he was unconscious, covered in blood, and headed for a hospital in Germany.

On the campus of Indiana University, Josh and Mary’s paths move ever closer to a reunion that could help ease the nightmares and heal old wounds… or make them worse.

Book Review

Putting aside the fact that my entire family is filled with Marines, or that I have waged my own personal war against PTSD, and mental health issues, this book reached me on a very deep and honest level.

Alone In The Light is one of the more important books of our time. It translates for the everyday person what our brothers and sisters endure on a regular basis as they serve our country. The battle on the field is nothing compared to the internal battle waged within and it’s the one we lose the most. (see 22 Veterans/Day)

Our characters, Josh and Mary, are veterans and trying to find their way in the transition from military life to being a civilian again, while trying to answer the question, why did I survive but my brothers did not.

Like any true military based book, there’s some vulgar language, because that’s exactly how we speak! Benjamin Bass told it exactly as it is and I respect that on many many levels. He also does a good job in the tactfulness of explaining the massive IED attack that leaves one of our main characters without one of his legs, some of his brothers injured and one who didn’t make it. Enough for us to understand, enough to evoke emotion and sympathy for the characters but not so much as to go for the tacky shock-and-awe value.
Alone In The Light is very well written.

Along the ride, you get to read different shifts of view point between Mary and Josh, as well as timelines from “here and now” and “back then”. I felt the transitions were done well and I never found myself lost in confusion. I also want to add that as a male writer, I felt Benjamin wrote Mary in a believable and realistic way. Which shows the investment he put into his novel. The representation of both genders as a military veteran was a breath of fresh air!

Women are veterans too! Who would have thought! (Thank You Benjamin).

This is a powerful and moving book. If you want to really experience what it was like to be in Afghanistan/Iraq from an emotional level, and to better understand the internal wars waged back on home soil, Alone In The Light is a great start.

About the Author

Benjamin W. Bass is a native Hoosier and a ten-year veteran of the Indiana National Guard. It was his time in the Guard that gave him the basis for his novel, Alone In The Light. Drawing from his personal experience, Bass has crafted a very real depiction of post-deployment life.

Bass graduated from Indiana University, where he met the love of his life. Now married, they reside in Indiana with their two children, a lovable dog, and two very questionable cats.

When Benjamin is not writing, you can find him playing with his children on the living room floor, hunting on his family’s farm, or relaxing on the patio with his wife and a glass of scotch.

A Note from the Author:

Much of this work, while being fiction, is rooted in my life. I’d like that say that 40% or more of Alone In The Light is taken from the Life History of Benjamin Bass. I struggled for years with “self-medication” and drinking. I was sullen and angry. I ignored the people who cared about me in favor of being an ill-tempered a-hole sitting alone in my apartment… And I think that comes across in Josh Carpenter’s post-deployment attitude quite well.

In addition, social media didn’t exist in 2005 – at least not like it is today. Smart phones weren’t a thing yet – you’ll note that both Josh and Mary have flip-phones. I remember when “thefacebook.com” came to IU. It was around during this time, but it wasn’t widespread then. This story would be very different in 2011 or 2019. We’ve become so dependent on smart technology and social media that it’s almost impossible to remember life before it, but I remember. I remember just how easy it was to shut out the world and hide in my apartment, and I didn’t have to post selfies or anything to prove I was alive and well.
In researching this book, I’ve taken a lot time to look over the statistics of PTSD, TBI, and amputations throughout the timeline of OIF, OEF, and various other military campaigns. One of the reasons this is set in 2005, aside from coinciding with my own life, is that I try to shed some light on the VA and U.S. government’s lack of preparedness in dealing with these things.

I remember early visits to the VA when I came home in ’04 and ’05. And I remember the drastic change in who the patients were that followed soon after. In the early years it was me and a few other younger soldiers with dozens of WWII and Vietnam era vets. They would look at us as an oddity. Then, as our numbers increased – we were sort of looked on with a knowing expression of sadness and acceptance by the older vets. 

Author Links

Twitter: Benjamin Bass
Website: Benjamin Bass
Amazon: Benjamin Bass


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