MARKING THE DIVISION
“Jacqueline Guidry's Marking the Division is an essential book of our time, a novel about how war penetrates and harms not only those who fight but those who love them. By telling the story of young Eddie Delchamps through the eyes of each member of his family, his girlfriend and others, Guidry leads us to get to know and care about Eddie, which makes it all the more poignant when he comes back so profoundly changed by war that everyone around him is changed, too.”
Professor Helen Benedict, Columbia University
Marking the Division was a finalist in the Faulkner/Wisdom competition.
From the moment 18-year-old Eddie Delchamps enlists, his family and friends are forced to re-examine their images of the boy they thought they knew. Using multiple viewpoints, Marking the Division studies the impact of war on a soldier and everyone around him. As the novel unfolds, Eddie remains the center of tumultuous events, but the ramifications ripple in broadening circles to affect his immediate family, friends, and casual acquaintances.
The summer after his high school graduation, Eddie’s life looks like this: working a temporary job alongside his uncle in Louisiana’s oil field industry; hanging out at Pizza Square; making out with his girlfriend at a favorite spot overlooking the Vermilion River. An okay life, but not much more than that. No deviation from what everyone thinks he should do: find a permanent job and after that, marriage, a house, kids. Not how Eddie sees himself. Not what joining the army announces about him.
In high school, Eddie saw himself as invulnerable, but as boot camp nears he begins to worry he isn’t ready for what’s coming. While he wants to escape the shackles of an ordinary life, he also wants to keep rocking in that familiar cradle of comfort. But he has set his course and ignores his doubts as well as those of others.
During Eddie’s Afghanistan deployment, his doting mother Sybil and his girlfriend Monica develop a supportive bond forged over shopping trips and lunches at burger joints; this new relationship surprises them both, given their earlier, cool exchanges. Eddie’s father, Jack, always believed he was as happy before his children were born as afterwards but now discovers how wrong he was. Eddie’s sisters, already in high school when he was born, are lifelong sparring partners who can’t escape the ring. Like her mother, Susan worries over the dangers her brother faces, all the while searching for ways to make her own life more challenging. Dana, having already steered her family through her marriage, divorce, and re-marriage to the same man, insists Eddie will master army life as easily as he has everything else.
His family diligently nurtures the space where Eddie once fit, making sure it’s ready for his homecoming. Recuperating from injuries, he returns home, a place he no longer recognizes. Carefree, pre-war Eddie emerges rarely, supplanted by an Eddie battling to escape the horrors he carried home. His family doesn’t recognize the boy they love. Everyone wants to help Eddie, is eager to slip him back into the place they’ve held for him, but no one knows how to give him what he needs.