3 out of 4 stars
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Finding Rosie by W.B. Edwards follows Paul Sutton, a young Californian, and his life during and after his Naval service in the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1973. The story is broken up into multiple parts, focusing on two main periods: Paul’s life in California two years after his return from the war, and Paul’s life as a Naval officer in the Philippines. Although set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, rather than a typical war story, this book is a literary tale about one young man’s search for purpose and understanding.
Edwards cleverly uses an unchronological timeline to focus on the psychological subtleties of Paul, rather than on the day-to-day aspects of life as a soldier. This focus was expertly executed in the organization of the novel, which also aided in the development of Paul’s character. As a brief introduction, we first read about young Paul, a carefree surfer with his whole life ahead of him. The story then shifts to post-Vietnam: Paul is back home; drifting, mentally and physically, he is unsure of what he wants from life. His relationships are strained, and they leave Paul feeling unfulfilled. Next, an intimate portrait is painted of Paul’s service years. The narrative of this section exudes the excitement, longing, and camaraderie he experiences. This section also focuses on the development of his relationship with Rosie, a working girl. In the last section, at somewhat of a crossroads, Paul decides to take a big risk.
Beyond the expert manipulation of the timeline, symbolism is another element used masterfully throughout the narrative. Rosie, the title character, cleverly appears as a symbol for many things during the course of Paul’s story. Rosie doesn’t make an appearance until about halfway through the book. Rather, Rosie is presented as a constant theme, an ever present thought in the back of Paul’s mind. The idea of Rosie tied in nicely with Paul’s confusion about life post-Vietnam: Was Rosie simply a means to get through the most turbulent and unknown time of Paul’s life? Or was she really the one that got away? I thoroughly enjoyed the ambiguity of this character in the beginning of the novel. Leaving Rosie’s story to unfold later on, and only mentioning her in passing, added a touch of mystery to the already-engaging narrative.
However, there were some aspects of the novel that need improvement. For instance, I noted a slew of grammatical errors. While not overly distracting, these errors were apparent. Further, the narrative perspective was rather loose at times, oscillating unintentionally between the third-person perspective and Paul’s first-person perspective. On multiple occasions, the main character slips into paragraphs-long monologues. The author tried to cover this with a basic “he thought” added here and there. However, in these sections, the narrative felt confused, like Edwards wasn’t sure how to imbue Paul’s perspective without shifting to the first person.
This is the second book I’ve read by Edwards, and I was happy to see the author’s literary talent radiating from the pages again. Finding Rosie is a thoughtful, complex, and poignant tale that I highly recommend to readers who enjoy literary historical fiction, especially novels that focus on psychological aspects of life. Unfortunately, the lack of professional editing forces me to deduct one star from my rating. Therefore, Finding Rosie earns a strong 3 out of 4 stars.
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