Letting Go: Reviews

The narrator of Abe Aamidor’s new novel Letting Go, Dwight Bogdanovic, is deeply nostalgic in his recollections of the ’50s. But he is smart enough to know that being romantic about the past will just lead him in circles. At points in the novel, you wonder if Dwight will have the sense to move on with his life or else just get swallowed in the eddies of his past.

And this narrative tension, in part, is why the novel is so engaging. Letting Go is also a quick read because of the author’s keen observational skills, which he brings to bear–with both affection and dry humor–on the city of Indianapolis, which might be unfamiliar literary territory for most.

But this meditation on fathers and sons, on loss, and on the passage of time, should feel familiar to its readers because Dwight Bogdanovic is an authentic literary creation who reflects the struggles that we all have at some point in our lives.

-Dan Grossman, Arts Editor, NUVO Newsweekly (Indianapolis)

His grandfather served in an engineering unit in France in World War I. His father was a paratrooper badly wounded in World War II. But Indiana native Dwight Bogdanovic didn’t follow family tradition and join the military. A 1-Y deferment for scoliosis kept him from being drafted during the Vietnam War.

Bogdanovic is the narrator of Abe Aamidor’s new novel, Letting Go (The Permanent Press, 192 pp. $29.95, hardcover; $9.99, Kindle). Aamidor, a former journalist, is the author of a novel, short stories, and nonfiction works including Chuck Taylor, All Star: The True Story of the Man Behind the Most Famous Athletic Shoe in History.

After dropping out of Indiana State University in 1968, Bogdanovic sold encyclopedias. He shared a house for three years with two other guys, one of whom was a Vietnam War veteran named Hank who became a security guard and sped around in a Harley in his free time. Hank was “seemingly uncomplicated,” Aamidor writes, but also would “sit up suddenly in bed in the middle of the night and look around, demand to know who was out there, even call out to his buddies to get their guns.”

Bogdanovic moves from address to address, and job to job, winding up as clerk at a sporting goods store. Relatively late in life, he and his wife, Thetis, have a son, Bertrand, who carries on the family’s martial tradition. The seventeen-year-old enlists in the Army following the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“I knew all along he’d be going in,” his father says. “It was in the way he’d discuss famous battles in history and in some of the books he’d read, such as Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead and Going After Cacciato, by Tim O’Brien, although neither was a gung-ho, go get ’em, John Wayne flag waver. Quite the contrary. It was just that Bertrand always took the side of those who would stand tall.”

Bertrand conducts covert operations in Afghanistan and receives several medals. On the first page of the novel we learn that he died overseas. The manner of his death remains a mystery: “The government,” Aamidor writes, “would only say he was KIA, killed in action, the bare outline of a dagger by his name in all the official documents.”

Ultimately, the book examines life in general, and Bogdanovic is an Everyman who reflects on his experiences in a self-effacing way, providing no more than tentative answers to questions that have perplexed philosophers for centuries. The American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are just one concern of Letting Go—to an extent, they represent all combat. Throughout, Aamidor refers to both world wars and the Vietnam War, as well as the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and Korean War.

What makes for a rewarding day-to-day existence? Being attentive to one’s thoughts, perhaps—honesty, too, and showing appropriate gratitude. But Bernard’s relentless pursuit of results? Perhaps not.

–Angus Paul, Reviewer, The VVA Veteran

In high school, Abe Aamidor won a prestigious national high school contest sponsored by novelist Norman Mailer when he was an Esquire columnist. Like most bright teenagers with a flair for writing, he had dreams of being a novelist.

“One thing happened after another, and it never happened,” said Aamidor, who attended the University of Chicago. “By the ‘70s, I started writing for the Reader, the alternative paper in Chicago. So, I became a newspaper writer. I never wrote fiction, but I wanted to be a (literary) writer.”

Aamidor admitted in his arrogance of youth, he thought it was going to be easier then.

“So, in retirement I had to see if I could have done it,” Aamidor said. “My intention was to get one short story published in a literary magazine.”

So, when the Carmel resident retired from The Indianapolis Star in 2008, he wanted to see if he could have some level of success as a fiction writer.

“In three years, I placed 11 or 12 short stories,” Aamidor said.

Aamidor’s novel “Letting Go” is set to be released Aug. 8 through The Permanent Press. It has been released on audiobook by Blackstone Publishing.

“It’s set in Indianapolis, and some of it is set in Chicago where I mostly grew up so it would ring true so I wouldn’t get the wrong building on the wrong street or refer to something that’s not there,” Aamidor said. “There are usually two types on war, one is very stridently anti-war, and we should never let it happen again. There is a moral point being made. The others are in literary form, a John Wayne-kind of thing. It’s gung-ho, heroism or survival. I wanted something a little different, neither strident or gung-ho. There is no violence. I wanted it (to be) about middle-class people.”

The story is about a high school graduate named Bertrand Bogdanovich, who decided to enlist in the military after the Sept. 11 attacks but gets involved in shady activities after he’s in the army and dies mysteriously in Afghanistan. His father, Dwight, a blue collar-worker in the train yard in Beech Grove, tries to find out what happens. The story is told from Dwight’s perspective.           

Aamidor’s son, David, 34, is a major in Army Aviation, stationed in the state of Washington.

This is Aamidor’s second novel. His first, “Monastery of Writers,” was a print-on-demand publication. It is a  fictionalized story of writers taking over the French Lick monastery.

Aamidor has previously written a biography of Chuck Taylor, “Chuck Taylor: Converse All-Star.”

-Mark Ambrogi, Reviewer, youarecurrent.com

How do you measure a life? Is it simply the sum of events, relationships, decisions? Will it finish too late or too soon, like a book badly written? And who will value the life? In the first chapter of Abe Aamidor’s Letting Go, a bereaved father quotes a friend of Bertrand Russell saying, “Your life matters because you did live it.” But his son Bertrand has died in Afghanistan. Will the father’s life still matter? Reading like a gorgeously written memoir, Letting Go retells the son’s life together with father’s and grandfather’s, through snapshots of people from different worlds, drawn together in America’s melting pot, sent to fight for great causes, and coming home again. Except the father sold encyclopedias and the son didn’t come home. Convincing first-person narration brings to life, and vividly contrasts, teenage days of cycling and the present-day voice of an old man viewing his “fitness goal.” The “black blooming smell of soil after heavy rain,” is contrasted with city streets where “buildings have… personalities,” the regrets of the past with a desire to matter in the present, and the certainties of official voices with the nuanced nature of relationships. Birds are evicted from their trees, tribes from their land, and a man from the life he thought he’d built for himself. Small actions have large consequences, in life and in this novel, like concrete filling the space between wooden blocks to keep an old building standing, or memories tucked in the cracks of a sacred wall. Meanwhile a man, not yet so old, seeks a way forward that’s not so tied after all to the past. Only then can he truly look back and value those memories for what they are, proof that “life is for the living.”

-Sheila Deeth, popular book reviewer & blogger