This book had me at the opening scene. A young orphan arrives at the train depot to a waiting woman who has already decided to hate him. But it’s not that simple, for Jon is a boy with an extraordinary talent for fixing what’s wrong in people’s lives. He’s charming and charismatic, but this does nothing for him because of his ancestry. It was very hard to read about Jon’s plight, for it was shameful and felt almost too true to be fiction. It’s true that before the United States’ involvement in the war, there were precious few friends of the Jews. I never fully realized the impact this had on American Jews, nor how they might have been treated before America stepped into the showdown with Germany.
Though very dark and gritty, this was a book that was shot through with glimmers of hope so bright that I could not help but root for this underdog and hope that he had the might to endure until his time came. Jon was not totally alone, and this gave me heart. There were a few people that cared for him, and even loved the boy who was so hated. Even Jon’s grandmother, Marvella, began to see that this was a boy like no other, and that he deserved a place in her heart. For Mary, there was no other. The love between them was electric yet innocent, and though the odds were tremendous that they would never be together, it was impossible not to wish for that outcome.
When Jon enters the war, I finally saw the beleaguered boy turn into a man that any American could and should be proud of. His losses were devastating, but somehow he rose above the hurt and powerlessness again and again. He was brave and loyal, strong and commanding. This was a story about wars—the hateful wars fought against a boy in his hometown and across the skies of Europe as well. It was not only suspenseful, but hearty, and kept its tight narrative structure for the entirety of the novel. Full of unexpected twists and turns, there was no way to put this one down, for I never knew where the next punch would land or who would be throwing it.
I loved this book, but its title may lead people to believe that it’s only a silly love story, when in fact it’s so very much more. It left me with a myriad of feelings from helplessness to pride, and every step I took with Jon was filled with the knowledge that I was being lead into a rousing and compelling tapestry of inner strength, redemption, and spirit. Looking for something a little off the beaten path that will keep you inveigled and tightly gripped? Then look no further. Highly recommended!
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.