A GENTLE WAR: The Story of the Salvation Army by Lawrence Fellows
Kirkus Star

A GENTLE WAR: The Story of the Salvation Army

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A strong, sensitive, consistently interesting book on a difficult subject. Fellows is a former New York Times correspondent, and the book benefits from his unflustered coverage of Salvationists on the job--at an East Harlem addicts' center, in ""bombed out"" Brownsville, among the Bowery's end-of-the-liners--and his familiarity with Salvation Army operations worldwide. Belier is that rare photographer who can make an undramatic scene (a march, say, up a New York avenue) or one where nothing's happening (""A Corps Community Center in a small town"") pack a quiet wallop. The text, structured to interweave themes seamlessly and avoid tedium, begins (and closes) with real people assigned to East Harlem--where Brigadier Mary Nisiewicz's ""We don't get discouraged"" might be taken, unstressed, as the book's motif. And who is this street-wise warrior, contending with ""addicts and prostitutes and abandoned children,"" but a stocky, white-haired lady in specs--seen singing hymns on the sidewalk at the start. At the ""splendid new brick building"" that anchors the disintegrating Brownsville community, Captain George Evans confides a special problem: his fellow blacks, who associated the Salvation Army with white persons, took him ""for a bellhop or a security guard."" (""He also had to establish some tough new rules of morality."") On the Bowery, however, Major John Edeen relaxes the rules: ""If I didn't, I would drive a lot of people away, and that's not what I'm here for."" Interspersed is the history of the Salvation Army from its English origins to its service in wars and natural disasters--always selectively, in terms of personalities and incidents. Issues are aired too: the Salvation Army has been picketed by feminists for discrimination in assigning ranks; but it also put women in the pulpit (starting with founder William Booth's fighting wife Catherine) more than a century before other churches. And we hear from a loyal dropout, who didn't like ""waiting for shoppers to drop money in the kettle""--counterpointed by Brigadier Nisiewicz, who doesn't get discouraged whether people stop or not ""because I'm in it for God."" Exemplary; and though it looks young, not unworthy of anyone's attention.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1980
Publisher: Macmillan