It’s 1943. World War II is raging in Europe and the Pacific. But In New York City, eleven-year-old Jack Dalton is fighting a war of his own. Having lost his father in Bataan and wanting to protect his mother from the Germans and the Japanese, Jack desires to join the Army. His mother thinks one solider in the family is enough. Even his classmates don’t understand. Attending Dutch Masters Day School on a scholarship, they laugh at his idea of going back to Bataan with General MacArthur. When a classmate steals his girl, Jack is bent on revenge, putting him on a course to meet up with an articulate and charismatic ex-convict who turns his world upside down.
A huge fan of Jerome Charyn’s work, I was thrilled to learn this book was being re-released as an eBook and going on tour. Back to Bataan is an eloquently told story that provides a glimpse into one boy’s life in New York City during World War II. Filled with many engaging characters, this short book (101 pages) tugs at the heartstrings. It is clear that Jack is searching for a good male role model to replace the father he lost. His mother doesn’t understand him. His peers don’t understand him. And he is bullied by the rich students he attends school with. All this drama propels Jack to take certain actions that end up having severe consequences.
I’m a bit on the fence about this book. While the work of a master is evident in Charyn’s telling of Jack’s story, it doesn’t seem to be the right fit for the current YA market. The themes of the horrors of war, a boy’s search for a male role model, and being bullied are definitely topics today’s young people can relate to, but I don’t see Jack’s desire to join the Army and go back to Bataan with MacArthur as being easily understood or accepted by this age group. I’m not certain this story will fully strike a chord with them.
One of the things I think is interesting to note is that the characters on the new cover seem to be in their late teens, but Jack is only eleven in the story. It appears the idea was to attract an older audience, but I’m not certain that will happen because the main characters are so young; and some of the themes running through Back to Bataan are probably too obscure for younger readers. As a lover of historical fiction,I enjoyed the story. I’m just not sure how much of a hit it will be with its target market.
That said, you won’t find a more masterful storyteller than Jerome Charyn. His work is amazing. It digs deep into the heart and delivers meaningful stories that examine life with all its joys and sorrows.
- File Size:186 KB
- Print Length:101 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage:Unlimited
- Publisher:Tribute Books (June 21, 2012)
- Sold by:Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
- Language: English
Release: July 1, 2012
Kindle buy link – $2.99
iBookstore buy link – $4.99
Google buy link – $3.79
Smashwords buy link – $4.99
PDF buy link – $4.95
Jerome Charyn (born May 13, 1937) is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him “one of the most important writers in American literature.”
New York Newsday hailed Charyn as “a contemporary American Balzac,” and the Los Angeles Times described him as “absolutely unique among American writers.”
Since 1964, he has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year. Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture.
Charyn lives in Paris and New York City.
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I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinions. I have not been compensated in any way for this review.