GONE TO SOLDIERS is a timeless story about WWII that proves once again why Marge Piercy is a masterful story teller. A 770-page novel encompassing the lives of eight major characters and two minor, but no less important characters, Duvey and Murray, it's an epic story spanning the critical war years between 1939-1945. GONE TO SOLDIERS is more than a story about war and its atrocities; that is, it's not gorified guts and glory - sure there are plenty of searingly, painful scenes (and you'll feel them, trust me) - it's a story that explores the most basic, human desire to connect with another being to the most complex and grandiose hopes. SOLDIERS brings dignity to the lives pitted against a chaotic world spinning and spanning the globe: From US to Great Britain to France to Germany to Asia. So far what I've written is good for a blurb on a jacket but doesn't say much. So I think sharing my impressions might best suit this review:
I feel lame in saying that SOLDIERS is about heart break, about the uncompromising spirit of the human will and bitter-sweet triumph; but that's the story in a nutshell. I'm still reeling from the effects of these stories, and I mean SOLDIERS is not just one story, but many stories in one book. The richness and accuracy of most of the details place the reader in the stories. I was literally swept away for four, five sleepless nights at a time; then, during the day I'd find myself thinking about Jacqueline's precarious plight in France and then, in Germany; or thinking about Jeff's ultimate fate; or, Louise's and Oscar's intertwining lives beset by friction and mutual attraction; or about Daniel and Abra as impressionable, somewhat idealistic young adults; about Ruthie's and Murray's uncertain future... Next thing you know, you're pulled into these complex, interwoven lives that become your life, your family. Best way to describe Piercy's realistic and impeccable characterization is what psychology calls transference; not so much projection of your own perceptions, fantasies and hopes, but actual transference that takes place through learning and finding something difficult has changed in you through discovery.
Finally, here's the thing, you can go through life reading a lot of satisfying literature: ones that'll make you laugh, cry, swear, fall in love, but a Piercy novel is unforgettable and unforgivable - just when you thought it was safe to close the book, damn! the story leaves you stricken, unable to think about why it made you fall on your knees and weep uncontrollably even when you kind of knew the blows were coming; even when you knew there was the possibility of a happily ever ending, you're haunted by how much that happiness cost.