Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ordinary Heros

The only Scott Turow book I'd read previously was Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty, his 2003 explanation of how and why he changed his mind about killing prisoners. Turow now thinks it's wrong. It is a convincing argument made by someone who has actually been involved in capital cases, and I recommend it to anyone who wonders if state judicial, murder is ever justified.

Ordinary Heroes is Turow's 2005 novel set mainly in WWII. It has an interesting framing device to allow two narrators, Stewart Dubinsky, and his father, David Dubin. Stewart, in his 50s, divorced, a retired journalist, discovers in his dead father's papers a letter written aboard a troop ship heading toward Europe in March 1944. It is a love letter written to a fiance Stewart has never heard of--not his mother. In trying to learn more about his father's life, Stewart discovers that his father, an Army lawyer, was court martialed and subsequently exonerated. It sets Stewart on a quest to learn exactly what happened.

Through an entirely believable chain of circumstances, Stewart comes into possession of a memoir his father had written about his experiences after he landed in Europe, was assigned to the JAG office of the 3rd Army, and what led to his court martial.

I found the book compelling. Both the present-day account of Stewart trying to understand his father's life and his father's WWII account of Army law, war, combat, and much more. A number of things ring absolutely true: the noise of combat. I've never seen a movie or TV show that convincingly conveyed the sound of guns, and David Dubin's memoir talks about the incredible noise.

I also believe the book conveys more accurately the reality of the war. At one point we Americans execute four German prisoners. In one sense, it's justified, they deserve it; in another, it violates the Geneva Conventions; and in yet another, it is not something WWII movies and comic books ever suggested was possible. I suspect it happened more often than we would like to think.

Until the very end, I had no idea where the book was going. I knew that Stewart's father was going to live because, after all, he returned with a war bride to sire Stewart and his sister. But his story turns out to be fascinating.

No comments:

Post a Comment