Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Review: Victory

My son and I recently went to the Viet Nam Veterans' Moving Wall memorial when it came to Indian Trail's VFW. The veterans there had set up a first-rate display of vehicles from trucks and jeeps to a chopper. There were also a variety of items from the soldier's daily life including an old canvas tent. My son thought it was all "cool", but he wouldn't want to use that tent in a storm, or sit out in the heat in one of those old vehicles. First lesson learned- war is usually uncomfortable for people. Physically, emotionally and spiritually.
 As we strolled slowly by the wall we talked in very hushed whispers, trying to revere the silence such a memorial demands yet trying to answer my son's questions and give him an understanding of what he was really seeing- the names of more than 58,000 sons and daughters who never came home alive. Second lesson learned- war always comes with a price, even when it is necessary to fight. Once back in the car, my son read some facts from the brochure the VFW had handed out. Four soldiers on the wall were just 16 when they died. The youngest name on the wall is of a 15 year old. Lesson three- war doesn't care how old- or young- you are.
 I say all that to let you know that experience helped me get a perspective on war and its toll (seen and unseen) when I read the final piece of the Resistance trilogy, Victory by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis. What started in book one as children trying to save their Jewish friends and find a way to strike back at the invaders has grown by book three to a group of young people doing all they can to disrupt the daily workings of their occupiers while longing to jump into full combat and kick the enemy out once and for all.
 They learn quickly that war isn't fought with the enemy playing by your rules or plans. When Jacques and Paul, along with other members of the "Resistants", successfully attack a German supply train they learn their actions have also caused the death of many people in a nearby village as retaliation. Paul and the village priest argue the merits of fighting an enemy that seems to have every advantage with the priest telling Paul rash actions cost lives. The Germans are losing the war, why endanger the lives of these people now? Paul counters that the Germans cannot get their supplies now, meaning it is harder for them to just kill people. The actions of the "Resistant" have saved lives. It is an interesting argument posed several times within the story- never preachy, and with valid points on each side.
 Along with the argument of when to fight and who should do the fighting are the questions of: where to draw the line to loyalties? What is the right way to deal with the enemy? Can an enemy ever become a friend? How much effort proves you were a Resistant when weighed against actions that would prove you to be a collaborator?
 The book has plenty of cloak and dagger elements thrown in- a wounded pilot on a secret mission, passwords and hidden rooms, and an atmosphere of no one trusting anyone on either side. There are short moments of combat, and true to many people who lived through the war, there is little or no time to grieve for friends or family because the war does not stop and the needs do not stop. While the book is fiction, it is historical fiction, meaning the dates and events of many parts of the story, the experiences of the characters, etc. are real. I would love to see an epilogue story made that ties up more of the loose ends- especially of characters who fade out of the story. Unfortunately, the reader, like many who lived through the war will have to settle with "I wonder whatever happened to..."
 This will probably be shelved in teen collections in many libraries, but  I feel readers as young as 10 can begin to understand and appreciate this story. The book will appeal to boys simply for the historical and combat factors involved while girls will be drawn to Marie and Sylvie, Paul's sisters, who try to do their part for their people while also growing up and trying to keep their family together.
Book 2 of Resistance
Book 1 of Resistance

Victory completes the trilogy, and it does so in a way that the reader is not feeling elated or victorious, but relieved. A very well crafted tale with a lot of food for thought about war. Victory is published by :01 Books and will go on sale in July with a recommended cover price of $17.99.
Recommended: This book has a cloak-and-dagger storyline while dealing with the war on the American homefront. Growing up, family relationships and prejudice are all tackled in this great tale!
Another recommendation, a young boy discovers a trunk of items and from these and his grandmother he learns of what the war was like for his family in Europe, the choices they made and how those choices tore them apart and forged new bonds- within the family, with neighbors and with strangers.

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