A newly drafted GI writes home from England to his little brother in Cleveland during World War II.
Young Charlie's letters bookend the story, but it's Joe's letters home that make up the bulk of this quick read. The white private writes home about training and living conditions, describing a landscape so muddy the boys wear socks on the outsides of their shoes to keep them clean for an outing and a moving account of Thanksgiving with a local family, before chronicling one exciting adventure. Prominent in his letters are his difficulties with one particularly disagreeable fellow soldier. References to Charlie's letters describing his travails with a neighborhood bully challenge readers to fill in the gaps, prompting them to see parallels in Joe's interpersonal conflict and also preparing them for one missing letter that they will notice only from Joe's discussion of military censors. It's mystifying, then, that when Joe spools out—over months of letters—his blow-by-blow account of the secret mission he undertakes, there is no evidence of censorship as he blabs repeatedly about the inflatable tank they carry as cargo. It defies credulity that Joe would easily recognize said tank in its uninflated state, and his minute recall is similarly unlikely.
Though the epistolary format works well at the beginning, it ultimately founders. (Historical fiction. 7-10)