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The character development and eye for detail that O'Nan wrapped me up with in his previous works is readily apparent in this 300+ page tree killer, and his the mechanics of his story telling are beyond question. Everything I had liked about his writing is represented again here in spades, so why am I so disappointed? I suppose the biggest letdown was in the plot, which felt a bit phoned-in. Reading up on the pre-release buzz I had anticipated a riveting tale of World War II action - all blood, guts, honour and valor - set in the largely ignored (by novelists and screenwriters anyway) North Pacific theater, but instead was slapped with a plot fit for a Sunday Night Movie, an ochre crust of internal family struggles that Tracy Gold would appreciate; a marriage wrought with betrayal teetering on the edge of collapse, a little brother coming to terms with his own mortality, an ailing grandfather silently defending the wife who ran out on him. Much to the chagrin of anyone with an appreciation of Louis L'Amour and Clint Eastwood, O'Nan dedicates very little time to the young American soldier in the trenches a world away fighting the Japanese; instead he opts for a tale of infidelity and adolescent emotions back home, a story which seems better suited for a TV mini-series or a grandmother's late night reading.
To his credit, O'nan has again shown that he can cut the mustard when it comes to consistently well-written works of fiction. His descriptive eye and cutting realism are on par with the best in modern American fiction and A World Away should establish him once and for all as a major force in literature. The story simply wasn't my cup of tea, a matter entirely out of the author's control.
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.
See other articles by Eric J Herboth.
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