Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words
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A native of a small town in Illinois, Jeffrey Miller has lived in Asia for the last twenty years, where he has worked as a university lecturer and writer. He was a feature writer for The Korea Times, the oldest English language newspaper in South Korea. For more, visit Miller’s blog.
A forgotten footlocker filled with photos and letters inspires Michael to learn more about his grandfather, killed in the Korean War while Michael’s father was still an infant.
For Americans, the Korean War, sandwiched between World War II and the Vietnam War, is often referred to as “the forgotten war.” It hasn’t received its due in many ways, including in fiction-the one notable exception being Mash, despite many mistakenly thinking it was set in Vietnam.
This is a war novel, but different from those that usually come to mind. Most expose the horrors, absurdity and high costs of war. This book is no exception. However, the approach Miller uses is different. Although there are scenes from the battlefield, the focus of War Remains is on those left behind.
Miller interweaves scenes from contemporary times with scenes from the battlefield and letters sent home by the soldier at the center of the story, giving us different prisms through which we can view the events. My only complaint, which needs to be vague to avoid spoilers, is that after the climax of the story it took too long to wind down. This was mainly due to too much detail in some of the closing scenes. However, in the overall picture this is a minor issue.
War Remains concentrates on a grandson, Michael, who tries to acquaint himself with Bobby, his grandfather who went missing in Korea and is assumed dead. In Michael’s quest, we not only see the horror and absurdity of war, but are shown the harm done to families that have had their roots torn out. We see the stress of not having closure for families of soldiers missing in action. And last, we may gain insight into the importance of family ties.
Some adult language and adult subject matter.
A small number of typos and other proofing issues.
Rating: **** Four stars