Entertaining, no-nonsense balancing of legends and martial reality.



Developmental narrative of the esteemed Navy SEALs, co-written by a former member.

Couch (Always Faithful, Always Forward: The Forging of a Special Operations Marine, 2014, etc.) and Doyle (A Soldier’s Dream: Captain Travis Patriquin and the Awakening of Iraq, 2011, etc.) co-authored this book as a companion to a PBS documentary: “It is our effort to tell the story of a remarkable elite fighting force and its ancestors.” The SEALs’ legendary improvisational toughness, write the authors, started with the underwater demolition teams in World War II. The UDTs were hasty responses to the horrific Tarawa landings and played a significant role in both theaters, clearing Axis beach obstacles under fire. The SEALs were formally established in 1962, after President John F. Kennedy "encouraged the Pentagon to beef up counterinsurgency and Special Operations forces.” Couch narrates his own tour-of-duty experience during Vietnam rescuing POWs from a prison camp, terming such missions “a tribute to the professional culture that was emerging in the SEAL Teams in the late 1960s and early 1970s.” Yet the SEALs’ fighting autonomy caused controversy; as one recalled, “part of the Navy saw us as some sort of quasi-criminal element.” The counterterrorism-oriented SEAL Team 6 formed in 1980 and fought in the Grenada invasion, the chaos of which led to the consolidation of the U.S. Special Forces Command. After this, “they morphed into professional, well-drilled, experienced, responsible operators” who were ready for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Couch and Doyle precisely depict many missions, including the famed rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips and the killing of Osama bin Laden. They focus on SEAL history and tactics and their embrace of obscure technologies and weaponry while emphasizing that in the Special Forces, "Navy SEAL training is the longest and, arguably, the most difficult."

Entertaining, no-nonsense balancing of legends and martial reality.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0062336606

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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