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Baby Jack: A Novel by Frank Schaeffer
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Baby Jack: A Novel

by Frank Schaeffer

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Where do I start? I'm with Nathaniel Fick, who in his advance praise for this book, said he had to read it in private because "it wrapped me up emotionally and left me wrung out." A former marine himself, Fick oughta know. I've never been a marine and I've never suffered the loss of a child, but I recognize good writing. And this is GOOD! And less there be any mistake, this is NOT just another anti-war diatribe. No, this is a book about the kind of service and sacrifice that President-elect Obama might have had at least vaguely in mind when he mentioned the need for those things in his election night speech. The freedoms we enjoy in this country have been too long defended by the few. There is indeed a "culture war" being waged in the U.S., and nowhere is it more evident than within the ranks of our military, which is populated primarily by our poor and disenfranchised. BABY JACK is about that war, and about the vast gulf between lower class and the upper class - between those who serve and those who surreptitiously scorn the very people who defend their lives of entitlement and privilege. But this is not simply a thinly veiled political diatribe either. This is literary fiction at its finest, with characters you will remember for a long time: the parents, Todd and Sarah; the children, Jack and Amanda; the girlfriend, Jessica; and God. Yes, God becomes a character in this book about war and class struggle. And He is a God you never could have imagined. As a product of a family full of right-wing evangelists, Frank Schaeffer knows his stuff. He uses much, I am sure, from his own life in telling this story, and it all adds to the final impact. Is this a modern parable of the Christ? You decide. Before I go on eagerly to Schaeffer's newest book (a memoir called Crazy for God), I should probably also point out that this is not an unrelievedly serious tome. Although there are several powerful scenes here which will absolutely make you cry (especially if you are a parent),in its depiction of the Marine Corps and basic training at Parris Island, there are also scenes which will make you laugh aloud in recognition. No, I was never a Jarhead, but I went through basic training (Army) - twice - and can still remember the utter terror of being the trainee, as well as the cruelty, the craziness and the pride of finishing the job. Schaeffer, who has never served, credits his son, a former Marine, for the authenticity. But no one can take credit for the sheer beauty of this book other than Frank Schaeffer himself. I will recommend it highly. Well done, Mr S. ( )
  TimBazzett | Apr 30, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786717165, Hardcover)

Todd Ogden, an acclaimed painter with work in museums around the world and a seemingly successful thirty-year marriage to the Brahmin Sarah, is living and painting in his two-hundred-year-old Massachusetts farmhouse when his youngest child, Jack, chooses the Marines over college. Feeling puzzled and ultimately infuriated by his son’s incomprehensible switch to “the other side,” a situation only further aggravated by his disapproval of Jack’s girlfriend Jessica, Todd ultimately turns his back on his son. Not long after the start of Gulf War II, Jack is deployed to Iraq and killed a week later, trying to end off an ambush.
From this point on, Baby Jack tells the story of the family Jack leaves behind, of his parents trying to survive as their marriage shatters, of Todd’s own breakdown and after-the-fact attempt to understand his son’s life — and of Jessica’s perseverance and the baby to whom she gives birth after Jack’s death.
Baby Jack is a powerful and moving human story of sacrifice and redemption, which takes its readers into a territory way beyond the everyday.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:16 -0400)

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