Stewart Dubinsky knew his father had served in World War II. And he'd been told how he rescued Stewart's mother from the horror of the Balingen concentration camp. But when he discovers, after his father's death, a packet of wartime letters to a former fiancée, and learns of his father's court-martial and imprisonment, he is plunged into the mystery of his family's secret history and driven to uncover the truth about this enigmatic, distant man who'd always refused to talk about his war.
He discovers his father was a JAG lawyer who ended up actually leading fighting men during the Battle of the Bulge while searching for the illusive OSS officer, Major Robert Martin. There is also a mystery Polish woman with whom his father has an affair.
The novel moves quickly and is impossible to put down once you start to read it. This is my first Turow and apparently this novel breaks away from his usual courtroom stories. I will have to look up one of those to compare. This was an amazing read.
Stewart's search takes him on a long trek, trying to access military records that are now still highly classified. He does manage to gain access, but only to redacted documents - until he contacts the man who had been his father's attorney. The attorney has a lengthy document he had asked David to write before his trial, as a way of getting some sense of what David had been through - because David, a lawyer and Assistant Judge Advocate, refuses to explain why he wants to plead guilty to the charges brought against him (releasing a prisoner accused of disobeying orders, and possibly treason).
Stewart reads the "journal" left by his father, which recounts David's attempts to arrest Richard Martin, a man who is something of a rogue and who claims to be an OSS officer on assignment. David is assigned by Martin's commanding officer - General Teedle - to find Martin, stop him, and bring him in for trial. In the course of this, David encounters the horrors of war at the very front lines of the final Allied advance that would ultimately defeat the Nazis.
I am not one for war stories, but Turow produces a book that is absolutely astonishing. The pace of the book is excellent, the narrative effectively descriptive, the ultimate story being told compelling. Surprises about, as Stewart finds that his mother refuses to talk about David's experiences in the War, even though David had rescued her from a concentration camp (Dubin and Stewart's mother are Jewish). Stewart's sister refuses to support his efforts to uncover their father's past.
A tightly-woven story that will satisfy readers completely - rich characters, profound insights, compelling plot. A must-read.
The main character is Stewart Dubinsky, a disenchanted 55-year-old crime reporter, divorced, no longer employed. His father is recently deceased. The biggest single fact about his father's life is that he married a woman he helped liberate from the extermination camps when he was in the Army at the end of WWII. Stewart's mother is still alive. He's helping her sort through his father's effects when he finds a bundle of letters that set him off on a journey to discover the truth about his father's past. Because, to Stewart's surprise and disquiet, it seems as though his father -- who had been a JAG lawyer -- had not only jilted a fiancee left behind in order to marry Stewart's mother, but at the time he had been in the middle of a trial, namely, his own courtmartial. This goes against everything Stewart believes to be true about his father.
The story is told in a combination of approaches. Stewart's recollections, his narrative as he pursues various lines of inquiry; the document his father wrote, his own story of what happened during he war, and the crime he was accused of committing; the lawyer who defended him -- 96 years old, living in a nursing home and willing to tell Stewart what he knows.
The novel is, you can tell from just this much, philosophical in approach. The nature of good and evil, right and wrong, ethics, depravity. The way people cope -- or fail to cope -- with the burdens of the past. There is a great story here, and Turow's voice is as clear and compelling as ever. But I had some trouble with this novel, anyway.
I found myself putting it down for long periods -- days, even two weeks at one point -- and reluctant to pick it back up again. This is not a good sign. It means that the narrative voice has failed to really capture my attention, and I know why that is, in this case.
I never warmed to Stewart. I didn't much like him to start with, and as the story moved along and his own ethics began to give way in the face of his enormous curiosity about his father, I liked him even less. Also, there were also some plot twists which I found to be heavy handed and even cliched, which I won't go into here for fear of giving too much away.
So, did I like this novel? Not as much as I hoped I would. It's got a lot going for it, and if you absolutely love any story having to do with WWII in Europe and its aftermath, it may be just right for you. But I couldn't get comfortable with Stewart.
In Scott Turow's latest page-turner, a curiosity compels the divorced Dubinsky, last seen in the novel Presumed Innocent, to study his father's
The story is fascinating. Yet it is rendered more interesting by Scott Turow’s use of Faulkner-like techniques. Like the Nobel Prize winner, he shifts the story's narration from one character to another and employs somewhat disorienting disruptions of a chronology.
There is a genius behind the technique. As the reader reads on, he or she unravels another piece of this complex story. Each witness or character to the story has his or her version. The more the reader digs, the more likely he or she will emerge with a story that resembles the true event.
Like Faulkner, Turow’s narration and characters may appear complex. Yet, his themes are simple. He writes about life's great issues - life and death, good and evil, love and hate, wealth and poverty, individual and family, sanity and insanity, success and failure, heroism and the ordinary.
Turow’s characters speak to their ability to transcend their settings and endure their sufferings. They are ordinary people who realize they aspire to a normal life. They bear the blows existence often delivers. They bear them bravely. They emerge pained, yet ennobled.
While I hesitate to rank Scott Turow on a par with William Faulkner, I have no such reticence recommending Ordinary People. In my opinion, it is Turow’s best novel to date.
No doubt, the reader will race through it to discover how it ends. Yet, the story’s power promises to linger as the reader contemplates the inner drama of war’s corrosive effects on even the most civilized people.
When his mother won't talk about his father's service or the fiancé, Stewart, a retired journalist, starts investigating. He finds the lawyer who defended his father against the court martial in a nursing home and lies to get his hands on a memoir his father wrote while under house arrest. The manuscript describes his father's tenure as a military lawyer and how an assignment to question a suspected traitor led to his participation on the front lines of battle. Stewart learns that his parents were more complex than he knew and that everyone has the right to remake themselves into something new and leave their past behind.
words of caution: The graphic gore level gets pretty high during the Christmas battle sequence at Bastogne and with some scenes beyond. I was so immersed in the story that it felt appropriate to what was happening, but it might upset some readers. There is a bit of a romance within the novel - an unconventional one - but love and lust in the time of war is nothing new. Just ask Hemingway. Personally I enjoy a bit of romance in stories when it is handled well.
Some of the information is based on facts and can be documented; some is made up out of whole cloth. There was a race to build a weapon that could split the atom and cause a level of destruction no could ever imagine. There were concentration camps committing crimes against humanity, and atrocities beyond belief were conducted there. There were resistance fighters, spies, a working underground army in France, and an intelligence agency called the O.S.S, the precursor to the CIA. There were insubordinate soldiers, traitors and deserters. There was no Gita Lodz or Robert Martin.
After the death of his father, David Dubin, Stuart Dubinsky, a retired journalist and frustrated author, discovers information about him that he had never known. Their relationship had not been as close as it should have been, and it was now too late to reconcile any differences. All he knew for sure was that his father had met his mother when she was in a concentration camp. It was at the end of the war, and they married in 1946. Everything that happened to them before that was in the past, left in silence, everything else was the future that they lived.
Reading through the letters of his father from a previously unknown former girlfriend, Grace Morton, he discovers that his father had another life he never knew about. He had been engaged before he married his mother, he had been court-martialed at the war’s end and sentenced to prison, but the sentence was eventually overturned. He had no idea about the court-martial or its dismissal. He was astonished and upon learning the name of the lawyer who defended his father, he sets out to find him. He had little hope since so much time had passed, but when he found him in an assisted living facility, deep into his 90’s, he was surprised to find a weakened frail man with a mind sharp as a tack and a memory like a steel trap. However, the lawyer refused to tell him the whole story, because of attorney client privilege.
Against the wishes of his mother and his siblings, he doggedly decides to try to ferret out the secrets his father had so desperately sought to prevent his family from discovering and to write a book about the events. Through a manuscript written by his father, interviews with the lawyer and letters, he slowly finds out more about his father’s time in the service. As a lawyer, he was a member of the judicial branch of the army. He had been both a JAG officer and an infantry soldier. The General he was assigned to, ordered him to investigate a Robert Martin, accused of insubordination, impersonating an O.S.S officer, disobeying orders and eventually of being a Soviet spy. Through Martin, he met Gita Lodz, a resistance fighter; both are fictional characters. There are other names, however, in the story which will be recognized as famous generals and scientists.
Will Stuart write David’s story and expose his father’s hidden background, perhaps bringing unnecessary shame upon his family, or will he let sleeping dogs lie? In a sense this book is not only a soldier’s story, it is also a condemnation of war, of the military command, the command that sent innocent men to die with abandon, that sent them on suicide missions while they sat in relative safety, the command that put them in situations that were often untenable, making them do things they would not do normally. The racism and anti-Semitism and the homophobia of those times, during WWII is authentic, but some of the military orders seemed to simply be the product of demented minds, arrogant leaders, bent on vengeance or petty quarrels they wanted to settle simply because they could.
The mystery unravels a bit too slowly for my taste. The details of the underlying spy story, although exciting, stretched the imagination as did the love story between two unlikely characters. Some of the dialogue is silly and inappropriate, not the language, because foul language is a product of men and war, but the conversations at times, bordered on the insensitive and ridiculous. Otherwise it was an accurate picture of war, the fear, the fighting, the bloodshed and the brutality. Happily, also, the reader of this audiobook did an outstanding job. His voice did not drone, was well modulated, and held my interest at all times.
Stewart Dubinsky knew his father. David, had served in World War II, but had told very little about his experiences. When he finds, after his father's death, a packet of
Note: was actually rated as 3.5 stars, so I tagged it as both 3 stars and 4 stars - Emilia
Ordinary Heroes is in the line of The Laws of Our Fathers, but set during WWII with a very good rendition of the
Due to complex military law and strong personalities, Dubin is asked again to find Martin but this time the search is more difficult, and Dubin is side-tracked into commanding units in companies fighting Nazis camped close by. With little real battle experience, cold weather, and insufficient supplies Dubin loses a number of men to snipers but does his best to bolster and support his unit until re-inforcements and supplies arrive.
Ordinary Heroes describes Dubin's ongoing efforts and challenges to find Martin, and decisions he makes in executing his duties. His experiences and feelings in battle, the men he meets, those he loses all mold him into a more mature man with changed perspectives.
A strong read about heroes, fathers and sons, courage, loss and love.
Not a delightful book, but a thoughtful one.