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The Last Thing You Surrender: A Novel of World War II
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The Last Thing You Surrender: A Novel of World War II

4.64  ·  Rating details ·  374 ratings  ·  91 reviews
Could you find the courage to do what’s right in a world on fire?

Pulitzer-winning journalist and bestselling novelist (Freeman) 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 surv
Kindle Edition, 464 pages
Published February 5th 2019 by Agate Bolden
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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)
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4.64  · 
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 ·  374 ratings  ·  91 reviews

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"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 am
Sue-Lin Toussaint
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Sam Reaves
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 w
Bruce Marshack
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 dec ...more
Carolyn D.
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Cindy Dean
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Rick Reitzug
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 focu
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Samantha Brown
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 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.
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Thomas Neumann
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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  ·  review of another edition
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 lea
Bobbi Spain
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.
Kelsey Burnette
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pitts has outdone himself once again. It’s hard to come up with the words. This novel is beyond epic in scope. At times so brutal that you may feel you can’t keep reading or risk surrendering your own last thing. But you must read this book. Every single word. It is a masterpiece. It pulls no punches. It requires that you confront the worst horrors our world and our lack of humanity have to offer. And yet somehow, as always, Pitts ultimately delivers hope and a deeper understanding of humans, wo ...more
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Pitts has written a hard to read and yet absorbing novel about the evils humans do to one another, the thorny knot of racism, the sometimes slippery grasp of identity and faith. Set during WWII, yet still relevant, this book is, at times, just plain hard to read because of the sheer brutality of some of the characters. I believe it’s his best novel to date.
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! This may be his best book, yet. Even though it is a work of historical fiction it has a lot to say about our current divisions. It reminds us that we still have to keep working toward understanding and we can't let ourselves slide backward.
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Roger Briggs
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Decency and Humanity on Trial

Having finished Leonard Pitts, Jr., novel on the anniversary of D-Day, my appreciation of this work of his art and fiction is doubly enhanced. The message of love conquering hate can not be lost following this week's tragic and senseless loss of life in Virginia Beach and the ripple effect that has and will have on the families of the 13 who died at the hands of a hate-filleed co-worker with a gun. Pitts novel pegs it exactly right, the last thing you surrender is yo
Mona Grant-Holmes
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Pitts tells an intriguing, incredible, and provocative story. Thelma was not quite three and her brother, Luther was nine the night their parents were brutally murdered by a hate filled mob. Their father was the only African American farmer in the rural Alabama area who owned his owned land and although he was a hard worker, that didn't sit well with some of the whites in the area. Thelma, Luther and their grandfather left the family farm the next day, trying to put that horri ...more
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author is an amazing writer. I've been an avid reader my whole life and there are endless stories being told, fiction and nonfiction, but there is a level of writing that is uncommon and Mr. Pitts is one of the uncommons. His level of writing takes tremendous research, it makes perfect since in relation to "real" life and he understands the complexities and dynamics of the human dilemma. His stories are full bodied and complete...just amazing. As a reader, I get so caught up in the character ...more
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To most American's that are white, that is, not American's of color, Jim Crow is just a term. Often seen as a historical term that represents a distasteful period in American history that was unfair, illegal and unconstitutional, even as others see it as still existing in a more subtle form. Few would argue that American culture hasn't been impacted by that period and that we still live with its heritage but to most people of color, the Jim Crow period was more than just a term, it was a way of ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars.
Racism in all of its forms is abhorrent, cruel, and contemptible. Pitts uses this book to convey the totally unconscionable practice of racism. By following the lives of a young, privileged white man, a young African-American woman, and her brother and the events of WWII, Pitts shows the unvarnished truth of how imbedded racism is and how destructive it is. Pitts also points out the horrors of sexism and how it not only limits, and often destroys, women's lives, but also how it deprive
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Last Thing You Surrender by Leonard Pitts Jr
I finished this on Monday and still cannot stop thinking about it. It has vaulted to the #1 spot in my favorite books of the year. I truly thought that nothing would knock Just Mercy down a spot, but this novel did.

Set in the Jim Crow era in the south at the outset of US involvement in WWII, the novel focuses on three characters as their lives are turned upside down. The author pulls no punches when it comes to the realities and affects of war and
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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 Award ...more
“Make sure your decency, your humanity, is the last thing you give up.” 1 likes
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