Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Lonely War by Alan Chin

Reviewed by Dan Stone
Published by Zumaya Boundless
Pages: 303

A New Fan of Love and War

I've never been a fan of war stories, but if I thought more of them were anything like Alan Chin's The Lonely War, I would seriously re-evaluate the basis for my longstanding aversion to the genre. In this heartrending and ultimately affirming World War II tale of enlisted sailor Andrew Waters and the American naval officer he falls in love with, all the presumably crucial elements of a good war story are present: interesting historical detail, horrific human drama and tragic loss, wrenching conflict, raging prejudice, and poignant camaraderie.

In The Lonely War, Andy, an enlisted Chinese-American sailor--and a Buddhist--falls hard and fast for Lieutenant Nathan Mitchell, his executive officer, setting into motion a series of events with far reaching consequences not only for them but for the entire crew of the USS Pilgrim. When the sailors become POWs in Changi, a notoriously brutal Japanese prison camp, Andy is faced with unspeakable challenges and with a dilemma that tests his own inner resources and extraordinary courage, in order to save the life of his beloved.

Any war buff able and willing to reconcile a turbulent World War II scenario with a powerful love story between men will find plenty of gruesome and vividly detailed action, but what's also here is a riveting story of passion and sacrifice in the service of friendship and love. It's a tribute to Alan Chin's talent as an author that he can simultaneously provide so much rich and painstakingly researched detail and never once let it detract from the romance and personal awakening that is at the heart of this remarkable book.

This story made turning off my Kindle at night one of the biggest challenges of my day for several days, and although I may not start reading war stories as a result of having read The Lonely War, I will most certainly be reading much more by Alan Chin.

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