Sobering, touching stories told with deep respect.


A Pulitzer-winning journalist looks at the impact of war deaths on the home front.

Rocky Mountain News reporter Sheeler (Obit: Inspiring Stories of Ordinary People Who Led Extraordinary Lives, 2007) profiles service members whose duty includes casualty notification to the soldiers’ families, focusing primarily on Marine Major Steve Beck. The author followed Beck and several other “casualty assistant calls officers” as they performed the unwelcome duty of knocking on a stranger’s door to convey the worst news any parent or spouse could hear; his text reveals the toll this takes on those who deliver the news as well as those who receive it. The Marines’ slogan, “Never leave a brother behind,” extends to this last duty and continues as long as the family needs any comfort and care the Corps can supply. Sheeler also gives the reader a look at other service members who routinely deal with the families their fallen comrades have left behind, such as Marine Sgt. Andy Alonzo, who supervises burials at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver. On the flight that carried Navy Corpsman John Dragneff to Denver with the casket of his best friend, the author talked to fellow passengers; their comments expressed mixed feelings about the war but unqualified support for the soldiers. The bereaved are the most moving figures here: the pregnant widows suddenly deprived of the family breadwinner, the mothers who have lost their only sons. Sheeler often looks back to depict the casualties’ lives before they enlisted: accomplishments, relationships with wives and friends, dreams for the future. An epilogue follows several families after the initial shock of bereavement, bringing the story up to date, if not to a conclusion.

Sobering, touching stories told with deep respect.

Pub Date: May 6, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59420-165-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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