Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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This fierce, compact tale of one grunt's war takes readers to the same time and place-the woods of northern France in 1944-where Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim was captured by the Germans. George Tilson, aka Heck, is another awkward, uncertain American 18-year-old mobilized from America's heartland to the European theater. Disembarked in Normandy, he meets a struggling French family: a one-armed painter; his daughter, Claire; and son, Ives. Claire nearly takes Heck's virginity, but he fumbles her seduction in a fit of fear. He's then trucked off to battle, where he experiences real panic under bombardment: "The noise was like nothing he had ever experienced before, a noise such as might be used to herald the beginning of a terrible new world." Heck is halfway through his nightmarish advance through a forest peppered with German snipers and booby traps before he fires his gun in anger, and that's only to kill the company dog. His second shot comes when his company sergeant, Conlee, an ex-foxhole mate and one of many to mark Heck as a coward, enlists him in an unexplained but horrifying mission. Arvin's first novel is an elegant, understated testament to the stoicism, accidental cowardice and occasional heroics of men under fire. Agent, Eric Simonoff. (Feb. 15) Forecast: Some readers may feel this subject matter has been exploited too often to yield anything fresh, but those looking for quality war fiction will be amply rewarded. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In this story of an 18-year-old sent to Omaha Beach in August 1944, first-novelist Arvin captures the horror, chaos, and waste of war and the fear of those who fight. Fear is the overriding emotion felt by George Tilson of rural Iowa, known as Heck because as a young boy he promised his mother, now deceased, that he wouldn't cuss. Before he controls his fear, Heck cowers in a hole and falls behind his unit, sustains a minor non-combat injury and doesn't try to get back to the front, and deliberately draws enemy fire to get out of combat, all the while surrounded by death and destruction, with soldiers blown up beside him, and the memory of an encounter with a French girl as counterpoint. Young men in battle age much too fast, and desertion becomes an issue, providing an ironic climax near the book's end. Arvin's understated prose shows the dreadful consequences of even a good war in this accomplished and timely literary debut. --Michele Leber Copyright 2004 Booklist


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In this highly touted debut, serving in Normandy after D-day proves to be too much for an 18-year-old affectionately nicknamed Heck, and he starts making all the wrong decisions. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In his first novel, Arvin (In the Electric Eden: Stories) recounts an 18-year-old Iowa farm boy's experience as he is overwhelmed by the violence of fighting the Nazis as a member of the 28th Infantry Division. George Tilson, called Heck because he never swears, is drafted and sent to Normandy a few months after D-day. Shortly after landing in France, while waiting to be assigned to a unit, he meets a young Frenchwoman who nearly takes his virginity. Arvin compresses a good deal of action, horror, and gripping battle scenes in this short, ambitious novel, marred somewhat by Heck's improbable relationship with the French girl. (Most GIs were lucky to find their combat boots, much less a lovely damsel in distress who wanted sex.) Still, Heck endures his fears, is wounded, and is later part of the firing squad that executes Pvt. Eddie Slovik for desertion. Although too brief, this generally solid effort is recommended for larger collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/04.]-Robert Conroy, Warren, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.