On his 81st birthday, without explanation, Karen Alaniz's father placed two weathered notebooks on her lap. Inside were more than 400 pages of letters he'd written to his parents during WWII. She began reading them, and the more she read, the more she discovered about the man she never knew and the secret role he played in WWII. They began to meet for lunch every week, for her to ask him questions, and him to provide the answers. And with painful memories now at the forefront of his thoughts, her father began to suffer, making their meetings as much about healing as discovery.
First thoughts after finishing this book: The quiet ones usually have the best stories to tell!
This book couldn't have been read at a better time with Veteran's Day being celebrated and with me watching Lisa Ling's latest installment of "Our America: Invisible Wounds of War." Both the book and the documentary left me with conflicting feelings and a heavy heart. Most of you know that my oldest is a Marine. I'm so very proud of his accomplishments to-date and for his service to our wonderful country. Yet, as I read this book and watched the documentary I realized that it all comes with a hefty price tag. The author's father never really talked about his experience during WWII so she was caught off-guard when he gave her several notebooks filled with the letters he penned to his parents while serving in Hawaii. Little did she know what reading those letters and then asking her father questions would set off. Her father at times would freely give her information, but more often than not he would become angry and deny taking part in any type of combat. Revisiting those letters caused him to come to terms with his grief, anger, hurt, and hopelessness over the images he witnessed and the covert operations that he was a part of. Back then they called it shell shock. Now we call it PTSD. The book made me sad at times and the documentary really reinforced to me what the author's father experienced. I have since then found myself at war with my own feelings about the military, serving our country, and the broken men and women that are coming home. An average of 18 veterans commit suicide daily....it is becoming an epidemic. And as a mother, I do not want my son to experience combat. I don't want my son to become hopeless. I don't want my son or anyone else's son or daughter to become a part of that statistic. I never really thought of those who came and fought before us...it's history, but this book made me realize that being a soldier then and now isn't really that much different. War is ugly and it leaves hideous scars on those that survive.
Recommend? I would highly recommend this book to those that have or had a family member who served and may have experienced combat. The author gave us glimpses into her father's world by highlighting some of his letters and then delving into certain incidences while having her weekly breakfast with her Dad. I loved reading his first-hand reports of Hawaii and I thought she really let his personality shine through this story. As each day ends we lose more and more of our WWII Vets....we need to get their stories down on paper before there is no one left to tell the tale.
Author: Karen Fisher-Alaniz
Source: e-book Sourcebooks/NetGalley
Published: November, 2011 Sourcebooks
Disclaimer:Thank you toSourcebooks Landmark for sending me a review copy. I was not compensated for my review. My thoughts on this book were in no way influenced by the author or publicist.They are my personal reflections based solely on MYexperience while reading this novel.
© 2011, Staci of Life in the Thumb. All Rights Reserved. If you reading this on a site other than, Life in the Thumb or Staci's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
I love reading about WWII and this book sounds wonderful. I am adding it to my TBR list. Thanks for the great review!ReplyDelete
I appreciate your perspective, Staci. It sounds like a wonderful book.ReplyDelete
WOW, this sounds like a very powerful memoir. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.ReplyDelete
What a wonderful review! I don't think anyone who has not experienced being part of the military during time of war can ever know what it's like. One of my cousin's is a disabled Vietnam vet and he still can't talk about it. The emotional scarring is horrific.ReplyDelete
I've seen very good things about this book. By the way, TIME has a good article this week about the military, and also talks about the suicide epidemic. It might be online - I haven't checked.ReplyDelete
Sounds wonderful. Great review Staci!ReplyDelete
I so agree with your last sentence..."we need to get their stories down on paper before there is no one left to tell the tale."ReplyDelete
I have family members in the military as well and know exactly what you feel.
My dad was in Vietnam and has never wanted to talk about it. It's only been in the last year or two when he's talked about it in any detail. I bet I would love this one.ReplyDelete
I am not a big war buff but after reading Unbroken, WWII books seem to be grabbing my attention.ReplyDelete
It does sound good, and those poor men :/ Why do people have to make wars, I feel so sorry for those who sufferReplyDelete
Wow wow wow... this sounds like ONE POWERFUL impact book! :):):):):)ReplyDelete
I've been curious about this book for the WWII connection, but it seems like it really gets you thinking beyond that particular war and how war affects soldiers and cuts them off from their families. I know my dad said very little about his experiences in Vietnam, and he'd tear up at war movies. I'll link your review to War Through the Generations.ReplyDelete
I don't think most people realize the sacrifice our service men and women and their families make. This sounds like a very moving book.ReplyDelete
What a powerful book. I'm so glad that generation is coming forth with their memories - before it's too late. I'm hoping the Vietnam vets will do the same.ReplyDelete
Wow - this sounds fantastic! Hadn't heard of the book before, but always love memoirs that revolve around old letters.ReplyDelete
I cannot tell you how much your post touched me -- my father was a WWII army veteran (he passed away 10 years ago) and NEVER talked about his war experiences when we were young. When we were little, we just didn't understand the incredible impact the hand-to-hand combat and war experiences had on him. It wasn't until all of us were grown and began asking him questions that he pulled out a drawer FULL of medals for valor and courage and service! Amazing sacrifices and such a humble man! I'm so glad my two brothers recorded his stories and now we proudly display his medals for his contribution to our freedom. I pray for you and your son, Staci, and thank your son for the sacrifice of his service. Sorry this is so long but your post opened up a flood of emotions! Very powerful stuff!ReplyDelete
My father served in WWII but rarely talked about it. Now that he is gone, I wish I knew more about his experiences! I totally agree with your statement of we need to gt the stories don on paper. I also want to thank your son and your family for his service and sacrifices. Being a retired military family, I know how much all of you give up!ReplyDelete
I missed this review copy some how. I really love learning about this...especially since my uncle does not talk about Vietnam. Thanks for pointing this out. I'd love to read this one.ReplyDelete
this book sounds like a must read! nice review.ReplyDelete
I thought this one was fantastic too! It was definitely one of the books that surprised me the most so far this year in how much I liked it.ReplyDelete
I really want to read this book one of these days... It sounds good!ReplyDelete
This does sound fascinating. We often forget that not all injuries can be seen. It would be impossible not to carry scars from what you've seen and done in war. No matter how proud you were of serving your country or how convinced you were of a war's necessity, it would be hard to live with those memories.ReplyDelete
I can't imagine the thoughts you had as a Marine mom while reading this one. I agree we must get these veterans to tell their story, if they can. This is the kind of book that leaves it's mark on the reader. Thanks for the recommendation.ReplyDelete
Your review really touched me Staci, I can't imagine reading this, when for you, it's so close to home. You're right, time doesn't change the devastating effects that war often has on our brave soldiers. HugsReplyDelete
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Nov 19, 2011 5:30:35 PM PST Karen L. Alaniz says:
Staci - Wow! You're preachin' my sermon. I agree on so many levels. WWII veterans are dying at a rate of more than 1,000 a day, and so many die without every telling their stories. We have to begin the conversation, as you said, before it's too late. As I was going through this with my father, I often thought about today's veterans, returning from such places as Afghanistan and Iraq. In so many ways, their experiences are parallel to my father's. It's sad. But it's also with pride that we support them and welcome them home. I watched the Lisa Ling show too - it was revealing and touching. Thank you for reviewing my book! ~Karen Fisher-Alaniz