“Escape Route” by Elan Barnehama

Escape Route

Elan Barnehama
Running Wild Press (2022)
ISBN: 978-1947041752
Reviewed by Stephanie Elizabeth Long for Reader Views (11/22)

Teenage Zach has two obsessions—major league baseball and the Vietnam war. The more stories his parents and grandfather share about surviving the Holocaust, the more his war preoccupation grows. His friends Jonah and Tony want him to stop being such a buzzkill. Still, Zach cannot stop himself from keeping a running tally of the war-torn American soldiers perishing every hour. He fears it will only be a matter of time until they abduct him and his Jewish relatives and unleash their tortuous actions like they did in the Holocaust.

His obsession is heightened when he meets a vet with PTSD. The vet’s sister, Samm, is trying to get him to calm down, but the young soldier believes they are all in danger. This affects Zach profoundly, and he makes it his mission to develop an escape plan for his family. Will Zach be able to find peace and solace? Read and find out!

“Escape Route” is a coming-of-age story set in New York City during the turbulence of the 1960s. Zach is becoming a man during a time of war and revolution. Yet, despite possessing more freedoms than his Jewish parents were ever afforded growing up, the perils of war and the all-consuming fear of being kidnapped pervade his thoughts.

One of the things I enjoyed was the author’s ability to reel me into the story and transport me to the streets of New York City during a time of upheaval and change. The writing was powerful, and Zach’s surroundings highlighted the events during the time—protests, riots, and the peace and love movement. It really embodied the collective restlessness of the time, pointing to the change that was coming.

Further, the burgeoning mental health crisis post-war was addressed in great detail. It reflected the times when there was little to no knowledge of PTSD. Finally, I thought the author did an excellent job highlighting the plight of anguished soldiers and their families. Why had their loved one gone to war only to return as a completely different person?

That being said, I wasn’t particularly fond of the lengthy recollections of the past; I found it quite confusing. There were enough conflicts in the present—Zach’s preoccupation with the Vietnam war, his relationship with Sam, and his friendships with Jonah and Tony, including Jonah’s sister’s traumatic experience—that the lengthy flashbacks regarding Zach’s hindered my reading rather than enhanced it. Perhaps it would read smoother if the author had told the story from different perspectives.

Aside from the distracting nature of the lengthy flashbacks, the book’s good qualities outshone its shortcomings through the accuracy in illustrating life in the 1960s, highlighting the mental health crisis pertaining to young soldiers, and coming-of-age in a time of change—“Escape Route” by Elan Barnehama is an immersive read!

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