DEPRESSION, WAR, DISABILITY BE DAMNED by Thomas Jay Lee

DEPRESSION, WAR, DISABILITY BE DAMNED

: Praise God

KIRKUS REVIEW

An inspirational autobiography that chronicles the life and times of a World War II veteran.

Amid the many softball profiles of America’s Greatest Generation, Lee’s no-nonsense memoir offers a less-idealized account of being drafted from Main Street U.S.A. and thrown into the European theater. Written with hard-boiled elegance, Lee’s narrative is humorous and wistful, despite its grittiness. Though a veteran, the author doesn’t entirely keep a stiff upper lip–the passages recounting his childhood spent on an Indiana farm are ripe with bucolic flourishes, spiritual meditation and ironic character detail. He portrays his community and family as idyllic, though undoubtedly quirky. Lee’s father, an amateur trombonist who never quite reached his full potential, is perhaps the most interesting of the book’s “characters.” An intelligent, uneducated and thoughtful man, he remedies his son’s ailments with alchemical cures based on turpentine and kerosene. These eccentric details engage the reader and increase the anxiety leading to Lee’s war experience–sympathetic readers will find it difficult to get through the author’s account of his dreadful time in the hospital, suffering from war-related injuries. He organizes the narrative of his recovery by the letters he wrote home during his three-year convalescence. Lee only “blows his top” a few times despite exceptional frustrations–in a crushing postscript, readers learn that he eventually lost a leg. The book subsequently chronicles his struggle to reconnect with his dreams and sense of destiny. The author skillfully mitigates an autobiographer’s instincts toward self-aggrandizement and pity. He makes no apologies and asks for none in return. The book has a proud Christian message and will please the devotional with its insistent humility. Lee is inspirational though; as his narrative moves from strength to struggle to peaceful senescence, he unconsciously weaves a vision of the best version of the American people.

A well-crafted account of the 20th-century American experience.

Pub Date: Feb. 5th, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4392-1835-8
Program: Kirkus Indie
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