Saturday, July 08, 2006

War Stories

I find that the most delightful thing about living in a multi-suburb city with library reciprocity is the smorgasbord of available titles. This week I am indulging in guilty pleasures like mysteries and bestsellers along with my usual YA lit. No surprise then that I've read an odd mix of books in the past two days. What has been a surprise, though, is that the first four books I've read all seem to be war stories.... Jerry Spinelli's Milkweed is a book I tried to read when it first came out without success. This time I read without stopping. The young protagonist - without name, family, nationality or memories of a past - makes a powerful statement about the nature of all of those very things we so take for granted. Its view of the Nazi atrocities of war through the eyes of such a child are doubly powerful. (And whether realistic or not, I was terribly glad at Spinelli's ending.) Graham Salisbury's Eyes of the Emperor is a gripping look at the aftermath of Pearl Harbor for a group of Japanese-American soldiers living in Hawaii. I was stunned by the racist cruelty meted out so callously to the young men and was horrified by their savage assignment as human bait for training attack dogs on Cat Island. It is a memorable book about the effects of international war on the homefront. My first non-YA title was Nicholas Evans' book The Divide. I remembered the breathless shock induced by the opening scenes of The Horse Whisperer and this opening was also jarring. Despite its seeming thread about environmental activism, it is at its heart a terrible, brutal story of the cruel wars that rage inside a family. I was deeply saddened after reading it, as each character in this novel is scarred immeasurably at the hands of those they love. The guiltiest pleasure on my weekend list is Oakdale Confidential. I admit it, I grew up watching As The World Turns, and though my viewing is so sporadic these days that I recognize very few of the characters, I could not resist bringing this one home for old times' sake. With an over the top plot and cheesy romance-novel phrasing, it was a refreshing change of pace to read. But today's news of longtime ATWT cast member Benjamin Hendrickson's suicide makes this one of my weekend's war stories. A man who struggled with reconciling his Juilliard training with two decades in the soaps and who was devastated by depression after his mother's death fought and surrendered in what may be the most personal war of all.

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