Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Last Thing You Surrender” as Want to Read:
The Last Thing You Surrender
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Last Thing You Surrender

4.65  ·  Rating details ·  568 ratings  ·  136 reviews
Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and bestselling novelist Leonard Pitts Jr.’s new historical page-turner is a great American tale of race and war, following three characters from the Jim Crow South as they face the enormous changes World War II triggers in the United States.

An affluent white marine survives Pearl Harbor at the cost of a black messman’s life only to be
Paperback, 464 pages
Published February 5th 2019 by Agate Bolden
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Last Thing You Surrender, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Leonard Pitts Nope. It would be plagiarism to lift a passage or situation from someone else's book, which I didn't do. I used "Unbroken" and a book called…moreNope. It would be plagiarism to lift a passage or situation from someone else's book, which I didn't do. I used "Unbroken" and a book called "Prisoners of the Japanese" as source material, i.e., a guide to what a Japanese POW camp would have looked and felt like.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  568 ratings  ·  136 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Last Thing You Surrender
"Do not tolerate disrespect, not even from yourself." (Unknown)

The Last Thing You Surrender is a bountiful harvest of life at its core. Amongst the wheat being separated from the chaff, the edible grains eventually fall to the threshing floor. Every breath taken is part of that process. Every step taken must be in the direction in which goodness rises to the surface, nothing less.

Leonard Pitts Jr. presents a sweeping saga of events during the Jim Crow era in the South. He sets his story down
Sam Reaves
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There are tons of novels about World War Two, and the vast majority of them are about what it did to white folks. How African-Americans experienced the Second World War, at home and on the front lines, is a neglected story. Leonard Pitts has made a good start on remedying that with this big-canvas epic revolving around two families, one black and one white, in Mobile, Alabama and the Pacific and European theaters.
It is not a pretty story. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the Deep South
Sue-Lin Toussaint
Remarkable work of historical fiction that challenges our race notions

I almost NEVER write a review. But because I’ve read other works by this thoughtful author, I waited patiently for this one to be released, and read it with enthusiasm. It might be his best yet. Let me begin by saying I’m a “softy,” and often don’t like when books or movies get too gritty. Yet, I found that he painted pictures that I thought were necessary for us to see how deeply ugly and evil we can be to each out as “human
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Historical Fiction at its absolute finest!

Leonard Pitts, Jr. has written an incredible novel centered around race relations in the midst of WWII. A powerful drama with lots of gripping and very intense scenes. So if you’re at all squeamish about extreme racial violence and gruesome war scenes you might want to prepare yourself beforehand. An absolute tour-de-force by Pitts and now my favorite of his works.
Bruce Marshack
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Last Thing You Surrender is a monster! It hurts to read it. It often made me feel like a yo-yo. The violent parts bruise like pieces of Cormac McCarthy and the Norman Mailer of the Naked and the Dead but more lyrical and terse. There has been no finer exposition of the impact of an "us/them" approach to self and other and the overall quality of life in this republic than Pitts Jr.'s work over the past decade and a half. Freeman may have been the most important work published in the first ...more
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I think about the baby, Adam, as I type this. He'd be in his 70s now, having seen so much in his life, the things that changed, the things that haven't. DH Lawrence once wrote in a review of Hermann Melville's Moby Dick that the original sin of America was slavery, and like the original sin of mankind, we spend our lives trying to atone for it. Leonard Pitts Jr. has tried with this novel to explain the cost of not reconciling, the costs of hatred that continue to divide the world today.

The baby
Carolyn D.
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Seriously one of the best books I have ever read - and it was a random grab at the library. Intersects three lives in so many ways, but none of them are confusing. It transitioned beautifully from/to each story. I could have read 500 more pages!
Cindy Dean
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. One of the best novels for me in a long, long time. Mr. Pitts is an incredibly gifted storyteller and his prose was effortless to immerse myself into. While many parts of this story were difficult to stick with, they were necessary in understanding just what hell the main characters experienced in their intersecting lives, as victims of war violence as well as racial hate. Will definitely read more from this author.
Lori Inouye
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Audiobook. This is an incredible book. Having grown up in a small town in GA, I remember the attitudes of "white crackers.". I have a difficult time reading inhumane attitudes/actions and often avoid them however this was a book club pick and I plowed though most of it. I had to fast forward through the WWII torture scenes. I highly recommend this book for those who are not faint of heart and are willing to listen to extreme profanity. It has staying power and will be a book I am certain I will ...more
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, arc
George Simon is the son of a rich white lawyer. Instead of having his father pull strings to get him out of military service (as his father wants), George decides to voluntarily enlist...and happens to be at Pearl Harbor when it's attacked. Against all odds, he lives---but only because Gordy, one of the black cooks, saves his life...and gruesomely loses his own in the process.

This is how George meets Thelma, Gordy's wife, and Luther, Thelma's brother. These three characters become the main
Rick Reitzug
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the best novel I have read in many years. The book deals with themes of war, race, and the intersection of war and race. With profound insight and depth and many poignant scenes, the book graphically personalizes the horror and inhumanity of war. It also illustrates how racism and bigotry among the troops, in the military’s leadership, and in a country that was supposedly “pulling together to fight the foreign enemy”, continued to be prevalent and often superceded the battle against our ...more
Aaron S
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Heartbreaking in every way possible. This story of three principal characters brought together through one act of heroism will take you from the Jim Crow south to the front lines of WWII. Through the eyes of various characters, you will experience the sickening prejudices of ignorant people as well as the the heart warming genuine transformation of others. The author seamlessly transitions from storyline to storyline reabsorbing you and filling your veins with the intensity of each scene. You’ll ...more
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, fave-2019
I'm speechless. The characters, flawed and human and beautiful, are intertwined in four very different stories that span the globe. The story is desperate and gritty (oh-so gritty!) and hopeful and redemptive. I think I just read my favorite book of the year. I wish I could give this 10 stars.

Read. This.
Paula Gillespie
This is one of the most impactful books I've read in many years. It was hard to read the descriptions of unending conflicts during the Jim Crow era, but if anyone doubts that the unrelenting pressure on Blacks exists, I hope they will read Mirror To America by eminent historian John Hope Franklin. In his first few pages, Franklin enumerates incidents of the culturally accepted cruelty he experienced from his toddler years to the recent past. The war action in the novel reminded me of Mailer's ...more
Ruth Chatlien
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A WWII book unlike any other that I’ve read.

It follows three main characters: George, a white marine whose life is saved at Pearl Harbor by Eric, a black mess man who loses his own life; Thelma, Eric’s widow; and Thelma’s older brother Luther, whose life and psyche are scarred by having seemed his parents horribly lynched when he was nine. Through their experiences, the book explores the brutality of war; the senseless racism exhibited by American whites, Japanese soldiers, and German Nazis;
Lindsey Poulos
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Simply incredible. Well-developed and breathtaking. This is my first book of the year and honestly it is going to be hard to beat. This should be made into a movie ASAP.
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A brutally honest exploration of racial issues during World War II. It's a great story with a lot of heart and a lot of depth.
Liz Butler
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sigh.... This is a beautifully written book about a brutal subject matter. It'll grip you from the beginning and break your heart, over and over, but your desire to learn the fate of these amazing characters will be so strong, you won't be able to put it down. Well done, Mr. Pitts!
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, this book really grabbed me, yanked me in, and never let me go for a minute. There are so many exceptional points I could make. One. How the reader feels for and hopes for success and survival of several of the characters regardless of what they are facing - whether they're women finding work during World War II, or they're soldiers - black or white - serving at Pearl Harbor or Guadalcanal or stuck in a cruel prisoner of war camp. Two. Yes, there is discussion regarding what the last thing ...more
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I found this an amazing book and feel that I cannot do justice in my review! Pitts did an amazing job of telling a very unique story of both WWII and the Jim Crow south. The characters are intertwined and the story spans the world - from Atlanta, to boot camp, to Germany, to Japan and points in between. Pitts handlingof the different locations and different characters is done so well. It was a relief, really! Just when I thought I could not handle one more description of war, there would be a ...more
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
The story follows three main characters through the years of WWII. George Simon is a marine, son of a successful and prosperous Mobile lawyer. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, his life is saved by a low ranked black crewman who dies in the process. When he recovers from his injuries he goes back to Mobile to meet the widow of the man who saved him and tell her how her husband died. The Armed Forces want them to go on a tour together to promote black enlistment, but George refuses to be used in ...more
Samantha Brown
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I never write reviews, but this book was amazing. Truly a must-read. If anyone is looking for one of those powerful books that sticks with them, this is it. This book encompasses many topics that are still, unfortunately, prevalent today. I could have read 500 more pages. Love the characters, love the storytelling, love the book.
Tracy Foster
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A book you hate to love, because it brings to light sicking truths about humans as a race not just in America but all over the world! What gives a person the right to hate someone based on their color of skin, or nationality. Why haven’t we learned anything from any of these so called wars. Aren’t we all truly related as we all are original decedents or Adam and Eve... I struggled with a lot of emotions reading this book, I hated the brutally, I cheered for the rights to be equal which I have ...more
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic parallel stories of WW2 Alabama and more. So much detailed adversity of discrimination, war, prisoners of war and more, but it fits the story.
I was able to hear the author speak and found him to be one of the best.
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing, true picture of the Jim Crow south during the forties, WW II it's discrimination and atrocities, especially in the South Pacific and Japan.
Leonard Pitts, truly majestic storyteller.
A must read for all to learn.... The Jim Crow South was and still is alive and well
Jasmine Oke
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! The depth and struggles of the characters aligned well with the era (from my understanding). It was a very long read, but it kept my attention the entire time.
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Masterpiece

This novel is a masterpiece! Highly recommend....Pitts has become one of my favorite authors. His ability to bring history alive is almost unparalleled. More later...but for now. Get a copy of this, and buckle up for a journey into the past that you won't soon forget.
Thomas Neumann
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent Read & Storytelling

Loved the story and characters. I've read several works of historical fiction, for WWII and the Revolutionary War, and this was every bit as compelling a read. But so much more due to the racial backdrop for most of the characters and story. I'm old enough to have witnessed some of this atrocious behavior as a child in early 70s Dallas. But seeing the depth of and viciousness of it on display here is simply overwhelming. And to see some now think it's still okay
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely one of Mr. Pitts best books and I can’t rave enough about it. It is set in 1941-45 but is pertinent for current times. It was truly gut wrenching and heart breaking yet considering the time period the ending was a hopeful as it could be. I couldn’t put it down, yet didn’t want it to end and had to force myself to read the last 50 pages slowly, savoring every word.
Like Freeman these two books were more truthful than not and served as a history or civics lesson that many of us never
Bobbi Spain
Jul 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Beautifully written, but the subject is brutal. The writing was so vivid that I couldn't go on. It really took me there with the characters.
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Nickel Boys
  • My Life as a Rat
  • The Women of the Copper Country
  • The Revisioners
  • This Tender Land
  • The Last Year of the War
  • The World That We Knew
  • Call Your Daughter Home
  • North of Dawn
  • A Job You Mostly Won't Know How to Do
  • The Dutch House
  • Deep River
  • The Medallion
  • The Water Dancer
  • The Hollows (Kinship #2)
  • A Bend in the Stars
  • Creatures
  • The Eulogist
See similar books…
Leonard Pitts Jr. was born and raised in Southern California. He is a columnist for the Miami Herald and won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. He was also a finalist for the Pulitzer in 1992. In 1997, Pitts took first place for commentary in division four (newspapers with a circulation of more than 300,000) in the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors' Ninth Annual Writing ...more
“Make sure your decency, your humanity, is the last thing you give up.” 3 likes
More quotes…