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

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

by
4.66  ·  Rating details ·  937 ratings  ·  229 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
...more
Kindle Edition, 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 "Prisoner…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)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  937 ratings  ·  229 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of The Last Thing You Surrender: A Novel of World War II
Linda
"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
...more
Brown Girl Reading
Absolutely brilliant! It's an American masterpiece and a must read! I highly recommend it!
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
...more
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
...more
Leslie Reese
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well...!

That was a compelling 500-page ride of a book.
Brutal, maddening, and necessary.
BOOKED & ROOTED
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite so far this year! All the ⭐️'s
ColumbusReads
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.
Imani406
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This hidden gem is one hell of a story to reckon with. Historical fiction at its finest. My second 5 🌟 of 2020 & just made my top 10 list of all time favorites. Read the synopsis and just dive straight in. I promise you won’t be able to put it down. I can’t wait to read more by this author. ...more
Babydoll
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This.book.is.so.good! ‘The Last Thing You Surrender’ is an exceptional work of historical fiction, that catapults the reader into 1940’s America, during a time when the country was raging in war and swimming in racism. Pulitzer Prize winning author Leonard Pitts, Jr. does an astounding job at creating a story that encompasses race, redemption, and humanity. Written beautifully with masterful imagery, readers will find that this story reverberates long after the conclusion. Words can’t describe h ...more
Alena
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read plenty of WWII novels, but I've never read anything quite like this. The atrocities, the violence, the brutal chance of who lives and who dies, are all ideas that have been covered, but Pitts brilliantly portrays them side by side the atrocities that were simultaneously occurring in Jim Crow Alabama in the most heart-wrenching ways.

From the opening pages which graphically describe marines trapped aboard a ship in Pearl Harbor, readers should be aware that this author will not shy away
...more
Stacy-Ann
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fantastic read. I love everything about it, the characters, plot the history. Well worth the read.
Monica **can't read fast enough**
This book...I had to put it down at a very traumatic part for a main character and for me that's the mark of a writer making me intensely connected to what I am reading. Don't be intimidated by the length of this book, Pitts' writing makes this a story that seems to fly by while reading. I have Grant Park by Pitts sitting on my shelf and I will be picking it up sooner rather than later.
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!
Patrick J.
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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.
Lorilin
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
...more
Lisa
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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!
Alba
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this novel because it was the group choice for #ReadSoulLit2020. I don't usually read war novels or histories. This one grabbed me and would not let go until the very last page. It was non-stop, at what seemed like breakneck, dizzying speed, from start to finish. Pitts takes the reader through every possible manifestation of humanity's inhumanity, which I won't catalogue here. Every once in a while, though, the author offers a respite by way of lyrical language. There were many but I'll c ...more
Tracy
Oct 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazingly beautiful book. It describes horrifying events without drama, yet puts you in the shoes of the people experiencing them. I am reminded of "From Here to Eternity" and "King Rat" in the storytelling style and the introduction of events into our lives that we can barely imagine. It encompasses so much racism, from that going on in the US at the time, to all over the globe between "races". Why can't we just be good people? i think this is definitely a story for our times, becaus ...more
Lori Inouye
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Laura Hoffman Brauman
It will be hard for another book to top this as my best read for 2020. I have read a lot of WWII historical fiction -- this may be at the top of my list. The book opens with the attack at Pearl Harbor, where George Simon is injured. The opening is harrowing reading and pulled me in. As the story moves forward, it follows three related story lines - Thelma, an African-American woman living in Mobile, AL and working in the shipyards in the Jim Crow south, George, now serving in the Pacific theatre ...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
Kevin
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.
Lindsey Poulos
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 Th ...more
Ruth Chatlien
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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; an
...more
Lesley
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
THIS BOOK!

Without a doubt, this book is brilliant. BRILLIANT! Leonard Pitts Jr. sets this book in the 1940s kicking off with George, a white Marine who is saved at Pearl Harbour by a black man, Eric Gordy. This event is the catalyst for all things thereafter.

The novel follows several POVs: George, Eric’s wife Thelma, Thelma’s brother Luther, and George’s father John. We follow the characters from Mobile Alabama to the Pacific, to Europe.

We experience WWII through the eyes of black people living
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Truth About Awiti
  • The Girl with the Hazel Eyes
  • Deacon King Kong
  • Spirit Run: A 6,000-Mile Marathon Through North America's Stolen Land
  • Fifty Words for Rain
  • Blood: A Memoir
  • Scorpionfish
  • The Not Wives
  • Living in Color: What's Funny about Me: Stories from in Living Color, Pop Culture, and the Stand-Up Comedy Scene of the 80s & 90s
  • The Vanishing Half
  • The Girl with the Louding Voice
  • The Tubman Command
  • Butterfly Yellow
  • This Tender Land
  • The Night Watchman
  • The Nickel Boys
  • Saving Ruby King
  • Writers & Lovers
See similar books…
259 followers
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

Related Articles

Let’s face it, 2020 is making us long for other timelines. Luckily, these 32 novels are ready to sweep you away to vastly different eras and...
169 likes · 145 comments
“Make sure your decency, your humanity, is the last thing you give up.” 5 likes
More quotes…