A fresh, rarely seen perspective on life during wartime.

DESTINATION UNKNOWN

ADVENTURES OF A WWII AMERICAN RED CROSS GIRL

Away from the smoke and the bullets but close enough to the colorful characters, a plucky Red Cross girl tells of her place in World War II’s Mediterranean Theater.

Wars are also fought from behind the front lines. This tale shows one woman and her Red Cross colleagues turning a small wheel in the massive American war machine of 1943. Debut author Kathleen Cox turns wartime letters and snapshots from her mother, LeOna, into a readable, often charming path from rural Minnesota to East Coast training and to following in the footsteps of the U.S. Army in North Africa, eventually onward to occupied Italy. Endearingly, the story lacks any pretense to bigness. At each stop, the elder Cox’s job was serving coffee, manufacturing pastimes for GIs, rooting out local embezzlers and, through it all, assuring her Minnesota parents that her adventures carried not even a whiff of danger. She hears of the Normandy landings through news reports, probably no sooner than her stateside friends; even a drive past Cassino, site of some of the heaviest fighting in the Italian campaign, comes a month after the Germans had been driven out. The named and nameless soldiers bask in simple things: talking to an American girl, swimming in a pool and treating the local children to ice cream. LeOna’s Red Cross service and her romance both show the power of the social economy among the troops and their supporters. Knowing the right people or simply charming the right enlisted men could get you a car or even an upgraded room at a seaside palace. The heart of the book, and an understandable focus for the younger Cox, is the story of LeOna’s romance with John Cox—a courtship that included drives through the Atlas Mountains, some innocent stowing away on a B-24 and (as Leona tells it) a small bargain with Pope Pius XII.

A fresh, rarely seen perspective on life during wartime.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-1466412484

Page Count: 210

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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

NIGHT

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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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