Ordinary Heroes

by Scott Turow

Book, 2005



Call number




New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.


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.

Media reviews

More brilliantly than his previous works, Turow shows what happens when "ordinary" people are placed in extraordinary circumstances. And what is more abnormal than war? The message is timeless. After six months of serving, Dubin comes to despise war. "There was nothing to be loyal to in all of this
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and surely no cause for pride." Then he witnesses the Nazi death camp at Balingen and he cries for the first time. He saw "how this terrible war had to happen, with all its gore and witless destruction."
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Über seine Vergangenheit und vor allem seine Erlebnisse während des zweiten Weltkriegs hat David Dubin nie viel erzählt. Umso größer das Erstaunen und der Schock, als sein Sohn Stewart nach dem Tod seines Vaters Feldpostbriefe aus den letzten beiden Kriegsjahren 44 und 45 findet. Briefe die
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belegen, dass David von einem Militärgericht zu einer Haftstrafe verurteilt wurde. Der ehemalige Reporter Stewart begibt sich auf die Spuren, die sein Vater hinterlassen hat, auf der Suche nach der Story seines Lebens. Seltsamerweise sind die Akten von David immer noch unter Verschluss und nur durch Zufall entdeckt Stewart ein Manuskript, von seinem Vater selbst verfasst, das die Geschichte dieses Kriegseinsatzes eindrücklich schildert. Als Anwalt für die Militärgerichtsbarkeit wird David Dubin als Leutnant 1944 nach Frankreich geschickt. Er schreibt liebenswürdige Briefe an seine Verlobte Grace in den USA und kümmert sich meistens nur um lapidare Fälle. Sein innigster Wunsch zu kämpfen erfüllt sich durch einen Auftrag sehr schnell und kehrt sich auch baldigst ins Gegenteil um. Der Schrecken des Krieges entsetzt David und er hinterfragt schnell den Sinn seines Befehls: Er soll einen Major dingfest machen, der laut Meinung seines Vorgesetzten ein russischer Spion ist. Major Robert Martin ist jedoch nicht leicht zu fassen und da sich in dessen Dunstkreis die schöne Widerstandskämpferin Gita aufhält, in die sich David verliebt, ist es für den Major ein leichtes, sich immer wieder seiner Verhaftung zu entziehen. David führt sein Auftrag von Frankreich nach Deutschland und er erlebt nicht nur Kriegsgreuel sondern auch die Befreiung eines KZ. Und in diesem entdeckt er Martin und Gita wieder...
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User reviews

LibraryThing member lamour
After his father dies, Stewart Dubinsky is asked by his mother to clear out his father's possessions. While doing so, he discovers a letter from an ex fiancee and military documents that indicate his father was court-martialed at the end of WW II. His mother won't explain the documents so Stewart
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sets off on quest to learn what happened.

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.
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LibraryThing member jpporter
This "story within a story" involves the search by Stewart Dubinsky , a journalist, for information about his father, David Dubin, who has just died. He discovers that his father had received a court martial towards the end of World War II and sentenced to five years in Leavenworth - something that
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didn't quite fit in with his father's war medals.

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.
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LibraryThing member Tochter330
This was fun to read. Turow is the King of all legal mysteries/thrillers. Nobody can write as well as he can. This book is a departure from the usual legal thriller--it focuses on David Lubin, a JAG lawyer during World War II. Lubin is ordered to investigate and then arrest OSS spy Robert Martin.
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My only complaint about this book is that it gets bogged down with military details--I was unfamiliar with the towns mentioned, the military jargon, and the historical significance of each battle that takes place. But at the same time, the description of what it was like being in the middle of a hellish war was pretty vivid. I liked the surprise twist at the end of the book. Overall, this is not Turow's best work but well worth reading.
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LibraryThing member rosinalippi
I like Turow's work. He's thoughtful and he knows his way around a sentence; he tells a great story. This latest novel is a bit of a departure for him. Most of his stuff is about the law, from one angle or another (he is, in fact, a lawyer). This is a historical novel that tries to do a lot of
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different things at once, a lot of which is still about the law.

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.
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LibraryThing member PointedPundit
When retired newspaperman Stewart Dubinsky discovers letters his deceased father wrote during his tour of duty in WWII, family secrets come to light.

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
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papers. They include love letters written to a fiancée the family never knew and a manuscript written while his father was in prison, which included the disclosure of his father's court-martial for assisting in the escape of OSS suspected spy.

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.
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LibraryThing member bohemiangirl35
The book opens with Stewart Dubinsky's family handling the affairs after his father's death. Stewart finds a tin of old papers in his father's closet - letters from a fiancé and papers indicating his father faced a court martial. Stewart never knew that his father had a serious relationship other
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than his mother or that his father had been in the military.

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.
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LibraryThing member probably
Finished in early February 2006, immediately prior to Kaminsky book. This is more serious, but not necessarily better than the latter. Enjoyable.
LibraryThing member MarkKeeffe
I really enjoyed this story. It showed the flaws and strengths in the characters both in peace and in war. I connected with them and it had me engrosed all the way.
LibraryThing member eba1999
Turow tells this WWII story with two first-person narrators, a technique which I found to be imaginative and helpful to the storyline. Not a five-star book, but definitely 4. It kept me interested throughout, and was gripping in the last third. Turow delivered stomach-clenching descriptions of
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battle and characters that were intriguing, unpredictable, and very human.
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LibraryThing member bookappeal
Stewart Dubinsky's reads his father's written account of the events during WWII that led him into exciting adventures and also got him court-martialed. The father's story is compelling but Turow unnecessarily interrupts it with flash forwards to the present that accomplish nothing. Contains
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extensive detail about military equipment and maneuvers.
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LibraryThing member teeth
A World War 11 mystery about a son's search for his father's service records. ienjoyed the premise of this book but found it very slow reading.
LibraryThing member RBeffa
This is going to be one of my favorite books of the year. A really excellent character driven story set in the present (2003-4) and during 1944-45 in World War II. There are a couple of mysteries in here as well as a legal thriller (Turow's specialty). I became quite attached to several of the
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characters which I regard as a sure sign of good writing. The story itself feels like a true one even though it is apparently entirely fictitious. Parts of the story are set within larger real events with WWII (anyone who watched Band of Brothers will immediately recognize the winter battles around Bastogne in December 1944 as part of the Battle of the Bulge). This is much more than war fiction however. The novel is a little slow to start and has a rather slow pace for the beginning, but that is how we get to know the characters so well and become immersed in the stories. When the story kicks into high gear it is something of an emotional roller coaster with twists and turns. Some deaths are hard to take.

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.

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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
As historic fiction about World War II, the story succeeds. The battles were real and the descriptions authentic. They put the reader in the midst of the danger and the carnage. The arrogance of the commanding officers is exposed as are the petty prejudices of the soldiers as well as their fear of
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combat and death.
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.
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LibraryThing member nyiper
I'm feeling dumb!!! I listened to this in 2006 and didn't remember it at all---this time I REALLY liked it---why did I only give it four stars before? Just incredible, from the descriptions to the story. What I especially liked was the interview with Turow at the end---answering questions about the
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influence of his father as well as personal comments.The reader, Edward Herrmann is terrific. Definitely worth it, even if it had to be for the second time.
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LibraryThing member camharlow2
Best known for his crime novels, this is a departure for Scott Turow as this one takes as its subject the American army fighting in Europe in 1944 and 1945, although there is a strong legal slant in that two of the main protagonists face court martial in the course of the action. The story is set
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around Steward Dubin’s discovery of papers on the death of his father in 2003, that he had faced court martial in 1945, an event that comes as surprising and puzzling news to Stewart. While investigating the circumstances surrounding this, Stewart discovers that his father, David, had written an account of his army service in France, which leads him to see his parents in a completely new light. David’s story makes for a compelling and moving portrait of the horrors of warfare at the time and the randomness and sometimes banality of death, all caught in Turow’s vivid and gripping prose.
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LibraryThing member christinejoseph
His Best — war scenes + feelings are riveting — so engrossing — Steward Dubinsky — father's past + death excellent —

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
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wartime letters to a former fiancee and learns of David's court-martial, Stewart is driven to uncover the truth about the enigmatic distant man he never knew. Using military archives, old letters, and David's own notes, he discovers that David, a JAG lawyer, had pursued a maverick U.S. officer in Europe, fallen in love with a beautiful resistance fighter, and fought in the war's deadliest conflicts. In reconstructing the terrible events and agonizing choices his father faced on the battlefield, in the courtrfoom, and in love, Stewart gains a closer understanding of his father's secret past and of the brutal nature of war itself.

Note: was actually rated as 3.5 stars, so I tagged it as both 3 stars and 4 stars - Emilia
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LibraryThing member CarloA
Over the Years Turow has mastered even more the art of telling stories, not law thrilles but real people stories. The law is still there as a guide, but it is not the main character.
Ordinary Heroes is in the line of The Laws of Our Fathers, but set during WWII with a very good rendition of the
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historical and human situation of the characters.
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LibraryThing member Bookish59
During WWII a young and naive Jewish military lawyer, David Dubin, is tasked with investigating Robert Martin for non-compliance of orders. On meeting Martin, Dubin is impressed by Martin's charm, wit and courage, and agrees to help him and his team carry out a mission against the Nazis. The team
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includes Gita Lodz, a bright and energetic woman Martin rescused on a previous mission. On returning to his superiors Dubin believes receipts Gita provided will prove that Martin did not comply with orders because he had higher-ranking orders, and that will end this task.

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.
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LibraryThing member bastet
Turow takes us in a new direction with the story of a man who's searching through the letters of his recently deceased father and finds that his family history is not what he thought it was. Intriguing, and the war descriptions are well done.
Not a delightful book, but a thoughtful one.

Original publication date



0374184216 / 9780374184216
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