Veterans Day on November 11, is a federal United States holiday that celebrates, honors and remembers the service of all veterans. I have had the privilege of reading and reviewing books that are tributes to the valiant people who served. Several of the books that I have read are heartfelt remembrances of sons writing about their fathers. One book is a novel that compassionately details the struggle of a retuning vet with PTSD. I share my reviews so that we may all reflect on the sacrifice and bravery of the men and women who served to secure our freedom. You can learn more about World War I, World War II and the recent more recent wars. Please click on the covers for more information about the books, author, and an excerpt.
A Place Near the Front by William Herbert
A Heartfelt History
Thoughtful, exciting and powerful- this book is a must-read. The story begins 100 years ago when we meet “Herb” as a young crewman on a merchant ship sailing from his birthplace in Trinidad to New York City. He has sailed this route several times and his experience on the ship has instilled two dreams in him. He wants to learn more about the new radio systems he sees on the ship and he wants to live in America. His only hope of achieving his plans is to jump ship in New York and make his way. Combining a positive, yet pragmatic personality, he uses his intelligence and desire for a better life to rise from an immigrant without papers to become a successful dentist and family man. Along the way, he must face the racism and hateful ignorance of the times. Much of this story describes his years as a Buffalo Solider who fought nobly in France during the World War One.
Herb became the father of three children and it is his son who writes this story. As the author states, “Herb lived an extraordinary life, uplifting the lives of many others, always balancing his unusual accomplishments, occasional setbacks and the limits of his world with strength, grace and poise.” A story of a gifted young man, this well-written book brings to life an important part of America’s history. Herb’s story began 100 years ago, but it is so relevant to us today.
A Loving and inspiring Tribute
Most of us have heard of the Greatest Generation, the Americans who lived through the Great Depression and them came of age in the early 1940’s. These men and women answered the call of their country and fought for the freedom of the world in World War II or supported the country in other significant ways during the War.
Author Stern prefers to call this generation the “Generous Generation” and he uses the life of his father to prove his point. Author Stern presents his story by decade. For each new decade he describes the historical events, as well as the interesting and fun events and then shows how his Dad’s life connected with history. This is an effective way for us to learn about a man, and about his times.
Murray Stern, was born in 1911 in New York City and he grew up in the New York area. He lived 98 years and saw many exciting events and innovations, from widespread use of radio, telephone, and cars to our modern world. Mr. Stern was a student of the world. He was a friend, generous, trustworthy and consistent.
Murray Stern attended college and then his mother encouraged him to go to Harvard Business School. Even with a Harvard MBA, during the Depression there were limited opportunities for a Jewish man on Wall Street. So Murray worked in the family clothing business.
The 1940’s were the defining decade for Murray Stern and his generation. He enlisted in the Army, and served as an officer for 3 years and 8 months from Pearl Harbor to the surrender of Japan. Author Stern gives us a great overview of the history of World War II and his Dad’s part in the service.
The 1950’s brought peacetime for Murray Stern and America. Murray became a business man and was known as a fair and honest man. He raised a family and this part of the memoir provides a loving view of life in America in the middle of the Twentieth Century. The author tells us about his Dad’s interests- family, chess, military history, travel, current events, world affairs, business world, social life. I enjoyed seeing the family photographs. Thanks to the Author for sharing them.
The 1970’s were Murray Stern’s best years in business. He had an exciting work life and experienced some important events in Britain as part of his work. Murray Stern retired in the 1990’s. Even after he retired, he ran a library at the Florida retirement community where he resided.
Through the presentation of history, paired with the story of his Dad, Author Stern creates a well-written and enjoyable book. It is good to be reminded that the men and women who were born at the beginning of the last century faced a difficult time in American history. Murray Stern and his fellow Americans grew to adulthood, faced the Great Depression and World War II and then they created a new vision of America.
As Murray Stern believed, “Find something you love, immerse yourself, surround yourself, make it part of yourself. Don’t be a spectator, join in.” I highly recommend this book. I think it would be a positive experience to share this book with your family or in a book club- some kind of environment where you and others could share your personal stories and learn from history and each other.
Contemporary Mystery and Suspense
From the beautiful heartfelt dedication to servicemen and women at the beginning of the book to the information about PTSD at the end, this story will seep in to your soul and will become one of the best stories you have read.
If you have grown to love The Lighthouse Trilogy like I have, then you know that this series focuses on the Henley Family, parents Hope and Spencer, and their three children and families, and their Diamante Winery. Each book in the trilogy has told the story of this solid family by focusing on one of the three children. In this third book in the series, we learn about the complexities of Spencer Henley III, better known as “Trey.”
Author Jane O’Brien is a master storyteller, and her books are lyrical and evocative. Her specialty is creating meaningful and deep characters. Each character in the book, whether a main one or supporting character is deftly and compassionately drawn. Even the locale, Western Michigan, becomes an important “character” in the story as the lovely descriptions of the change of seasons, parallels changes of the lives of the Henley’s. “The wonderful scent of autumn, an elixir that will sail a person through the next season to the peace and joy of spring.” Likewise, we learn of the beauty of Lake Michigan, as it changes from calm and placid to tumultuous. One of the most entrancing “characters” is the Snowy Owl, a magnificent and regal bird, often described as ghost-like.
When we meet Trey, he has returned to the family winery after serving in Afghanistan. His family is concerned about him. He has changed from a confident, charming man into a haunted soul. “I lost a lot of people I cared about.” Into his life crashes Sara who has integrity, a moral compass, and is the kind of woman a man would want to spend his life with, build a future. She is the single mother of darling three-year old, Jessie, who will become one of your favorite characters. Jessie tells Trey, “Daddy said you’re a hero and a Vet Ran, and I needed to resep you.”
And we also get to know about Kenny, Sara’s first husband who reminds Trey and us readers to “Choose life and choose love.” Trey, Sara and some of the other characters face life choices. Can Trey overcome his demons? Should Sara move forward with Trey or with James, her dependable neighbor? How should Trey’s sisters manage their own families? Is the key to their problems found in Kenny’s mysterious phrase, “Choose life. Choose love?” I highly recommend this entrancing and well-written book. Although this is the end of this trilogy, I have heard that Author O’Brien has written many other enjoyable reads!
Author Bruno shares his coming of age story in this humorous, but heartfelt memoir. His memoir gets its strength from his remembrances about his Italian immigrant parents, especially his father. Mr. Bruno’s father was born in Italy in 1899. I am including his story in this look at veterans because Mr. Joe Bruno fought for his birthplace, Italy in World War I. In the photo on the cover of the book, you can see that he has the twinkling brown eyes that are described in the book. After fighting for Italy, Joe Bruno immigrated to America and began his climb up the ladder of success. The author shares how his father created a business from a fruit stand in California and ended up with a large ranch near Fontana, California. Joe Bruno’s philosophy was “Survive. Outsmart the other guy. Don’t let anybody get the best of you.” He was a hard worker and expected the same all out effort from his son and wife. If his father got the idea to open a restaurant, he had the boundless confidence that he could do it. The Bruno family was like many first generation Italian families in the United States in the middle of the last century- it was filled with bossiness and enriched by an all-encompassing sense of love. Author Bruno deftly captures the essence of his family and spices his stories with many looks at other friends and relatives. Some of my favorite vignettes involved the many meals and feasts that were prepared and enjoyed. At the end of his book, Author Bruno acknowledges that he owed much to his father’s can-do attitude and encouragement.
I am a writer, blogger, book reviewer, and bon vivant and encourager. I have lived my entire life in Tropical Ohio. My goal is to make friends with everyone in the world. I am writing a fiction series, The Golden Age of Charli, that presents the problems and praises, and the love and laughter of family life and retirement.
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