It's 1950 and Jack decides to join the Marine Reserves. He only has to attend one meeting a month, he likes the uniform, and everybody else is doing it too. Just as things are getting really serious and heated with his girlfriend, Babe, his one meeting a month in exchange for 30 some bucks every third month backfires. He gets called up and sent to Korea, to war.
Mind boggling: He gets no basic training unless you count learning to shoot a rifle while on the ship to Japan. He and his comrades are literally thrown into a war zone with no experience whatsoever. It comes as no big surprise that he is captured and made a POW. What comes as a surprise is how he handles it.. He doesn't whine, bellyache, cry, or go crazy. He makes the most of it.. at the risk of being branded a defector. He passes himself off as a medic and saves lives, meets fascinating people, becomes a business man despite his prisoner status.
Meanwhile, Babe is trying to live her life the best she can.. but 50 years pass... Peace negotiations were made and the American POWs were left to rot in Russia. There's a huge cover up, of course.
The POW stuff is brutal... I have an ARC so these quotes will need to be compared to the finished copy.
"When the time arrived (for amputations), vodka was given to the men, tourniquets were applied and a sympathetic guard struck the patient's skull with his baton, killing only one. The cuts were made using both a rough wood saw and a hacksaw. Jack stitched everything he could see that bled, and then appplied an overheated iron stovetop to sear the wounds. One man lived, but was later shot for not keeping up his work quota."
"Cognac was tied onto the toilet seat; one arm was pushed through a newly sawn hole in the door, tied to a tree and held in that position throughout the night. Guards regularly pissed on his arm to assure it would freeze solid..... the rifle came down on the frozen arm, snapping it off like an icicle."
Imagine witnessing 50 years of that.
But Jack comes through and Babe and her connections help as well as an intriguing cast of characters that we meet throughout the book, too many to mention individually. Each character has an important role. But as people try to get Jack back home, Jack discovers his own government doesn't want him there. Seems, the POW thing is supposed to stay a secret and three countries want him dead.
"It is the belief of other POWs and of my own prison commanders that the American escapees are returned to Russia. First it we thought it was for money, but later we realized it was because out government did not want our story out."
Like I said, there's something for both the sexes, a bit too much testosterone for me at times. I also have a few quibbles: 1. too much telling and explaining and not enough showing and experiencing. This was unavoidable at times as so many characters had to be introduced and their background and all, but there was just too much of it at once and I found myself drifting off. 2. Too many characters with their own stories and backgrounds to keep track off at times. I got a bit confused and found myself flipping back periodically.
But love that survives 50 years.... Nice! Three stars and I received this from the publisher. It's an ARC and therefore, the quotes may not be exact.