Henry Childs is just seventeen when he falls into a love affair so intense it nearly consumes him. But when young Mercy's disapproving father threatens Henry's life, Henry runs as far as he can - to the other side of the world.
The time is 1950, and the Korean War hangs in the balance. Descended from a long line of soldiers, Henry enlists in the marines and arrives in Korea on the eve of the brutal seventeen-day battle of the Chosin Reservoir - the turning point of the war - completely unprepared for the forbidding Korean landscape and the unimaginable circumstances of a war well beyond the scope of anything his ancestors ever faced. But the challenges he meets upon his return home, scarred and haunted, are greater by far.
Robert Olmstead's riveting new novel is not only a passionate story of love and war, it is a timeless story of soldiers coming home to a country with little regard for, and even less knowledge of, what they've confronted. Through his hero, Olmstead reveals an unspoken truth about combat: that for many men, the experience of war is the most enlivening, electric, and extraordinary experience of their lives.
Disparate backgrounds and desperate times are a seductive combination. Olmstead makes good use of them, and what ultimately distinguishes his exceptional work from more pedestrian literature is his elegant prose. (Reviewed by Mark James).
Korea suffered under a brutal Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945. After Japan's defeat in World War II, Korea was divided along the 38th Parallel, with South Korea falling under the jurisdiction of the United States, and North Korea under the Soviet Union. Reunification was the stated ultimate goal, but when North Korea attacked South Korea on June 25, 1950, the United Nations created an army to repel the invaders with the US military representing 88% of the 340,000 UN troops. According to the Naval History and Heritage website:
Throughout the summer of 1950, the U.S. and the other involved United Nations' states scrambled to contain North Korea's fast-moving army, assemble the forces necessary to defeat it and simultaneously begin to respond to what was seen as a global military challenge from the Communist world. In mid-September 1950 a daring amphibious invasion at Inchon fractured the North Korean war machine. In the following two months UN armies pushed swiftly through North Korea.
Explores the complicated issue of war guilt and forgiveness, starkly portrayed in the characters of an officer from a country that refuses to admit any wrongdoing and a clergyman who is committed to a belief that to forgive is divine.
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