A fine and moving story, full of heroes.


An affecting portrait of the first American combat fatality in the Iraq war, and of those who suffered his loss.

As Hartford Courant staff writer Buck (Flight of Passage, 1997) reports, Marine Lt. Shane Childers was “one of a handful of grunts picked every year for promotion from the enlisted to commissioned officer ranks,” and for good reason: he excelled at everything he turned his hand to, had grown from redneck to world traveler and would-be French teacher, and was “the kind of soldier whom all the enlisted men and officers boasted about and who was well known throughout the network of Marine bases across the country.” His legend, the reader is left to presume, will only increase in the wake of his death. Shot down only a dozen hours after assuming command of a rifle platoon while attempting to secure an Iraqi oil-pumping station, Childers was an exemplary soldier; of that Buck leaves no doubt. But there are other noteworthy soldiers in Buck’s cast of characters, including the young CACO, or Casualty Assistance Calls Officer, assigned to bring the news of Childers’s death to his family. Buck’s leisurely developed account of the rituals by which Marines attend to their fallen is very well done, though at points not for the squeamish. Well done, too, are the character studies that emerge as Buck relates the effects of Childers’s death on his small community and his many relatives. Childers’s inconsolable Vietnam vet father and his mother wrestle early on with the question of whether to inter him in Arlington National Cemetery, “buried in the company of soldiers he practically knew,” but decide instead to return him to the Wyoming mountain country he loved; in each step of reaching each decision, they emerge as people of great principle. So do Childers’s fellow Marines, and particularly that young captain, who questions the war in Iraq but nonetheless lobbies hard to be sent to fight there, doing the job he was trained to do.

A fine and moving story, full of heroes.

Pub Date: March 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-059325-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2005

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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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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