A woman leaves her dreary office life behind in search of her grandfather and his fortune.
This debut novel from veteran screenwriter Scheuring is an ambitious, sprawling literary project split between World War II and contemporary times. In the present day, Lily Allen, an overweight office drone with a penchant for Coors Light and Klondike bars, spends her days in quiet desperation, waiting for something to shake up her life. Bruce Sherwood, an heir finder, knocks on her door to do just that. She stands to inherit $16 million from her grandfather Gray Allen. The catch: Gray went missing in action during World War II, and she must track down his remains to prove he is dead in order to inherit. So Lily, with moral and financial support from Bruce, begins an adventure across the globe to find out what became of her grandfather. From the moment this mission begins, the tale becomes Gray’s story more than Lily’s. Scheuring initially leads the reader to think Gray is a violent, malevolent man during an extraordinary (indeed, almost impossible, historically speaking) journey through the Normandy invasion, the fall of Berlin, the Pacific theater, a Japanese internment camp, and the Nagasaki bombing. In a surprising turn, Lily discovers that her grandfather became some kind of quasi-Buddhist, living like a hermit in Malaysia. Gray’s saga is like a World War II fusion of Siddhartha and Apocalypse Now, with a protagonist hunting a character who found enlightenment in the darkness of war. Lily learns about Gray’s war experiences through a series of letters, interviews, and fortuitous finds. Scheuring uses each leg of Gray’s odyssey to dabble in different narrative styles: epistolary, extended monologue, stream of consciousness. The author writes in some styles better than others. Lily’s Joycean meandering would have benefitted from some extensive trimming. Scheuring’s prose about the war in the Pacific, however, is vibrant, if often digressive (“Strange thing it is to have hillsides fire at you. You return fire, but you feel like you’re fighting the earth itself”). The author displays an obvious knack for writing about battles, and the book should please military fiction fans.
An engaging World War II novel featuring diverse prose styles about a man in search of spiritual peace and the granddaughter who needs to find him.