The Girl Watchers Club: Lessons from the Battlefields of Life

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9780066211725: The Girl Watchers Club: Lessons from the Battlefields of Life

For nearly four decades, the Girl Watchers, a group of World War II veterans living in Monterey, California, have gotten together every week to shoot the breeze, solving the world's problems and their own. Now in their late seventies and eighties, the Girl Watchers remain fiercely independent-minded and highly principled. Yet as seriously as they've always taken life's challenges, these men have never taken themselves too seriously.

The Girl Watchers' wry wisdom is born of collective experience unique to their generation. Growing up in a far more innocent America, they came of age during the Depression, and by their twenties had helped save the world from tyranny. The lessons they learned in those years -- about human resilience, honest effort, and commitment to ideals larger than oneself -- have continued to serve them, and the country, admirably ever since.

In the postwar era they became the first in their families to go to college; then, in a new age in which brains, know-how, and perseverance trumped family connections, they helped create a time of unprecedented prosperity. Finally, in mid life, they weathered perhaps their greatest challenge of all: parenthood in the sixties. Now, as they approach the end, they confront mortality and loss with their typical humor and frankness.

The Girl Watchers take nothing for granted, knowing that personal fulfillment, like success, is earned incrementally; and that as there are principles worth dying for, so there are others without which life will always be empty. In a cynical age of endless pop psychologizing and a constant search for contentment in the next new thing, their moral clarity and relentless optimism are nothing short of invigorating. What these men have to teach us has never been more important: that honor is not so much an abstraction as a life plan.

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About the Author:

Harry Stein is the author of eight previous books. The New York Times Book Review called his recent memoir, How I Joined the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy and Found Inner Peace, "a wickedly funny and moral book." He has also written for numerous publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Playboy, GQ, and Esquire, for which he created the"Ethics" column. He lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

From Publishers Weekly:

Journalist Stein's portrait of WWII veterans who meet weekly in Monterey, Calif., to share their thoughts and feelings is touching and straightforward, reminiscent of Tuesdays with Morrie. Members of the titular club range from their 70s to 80s and are stirring representatives of honor, self-reliance, honest effort and commitment to ideals larger than themselves. What makes the book unusually affecting is that the men are imperfect, eccentric and sometimes prejudiced. There's vigor to Stein's characterizations and solid grace in his writing. The dominant protagonist is Stein's father-in-law, Moe, a former navy ensign, confrontational but loyal and generous. Boyd Huff, history professor and former prisoner of war in a Nazi camp, demonstrates "inextinguishable optimism" despite having a schizophrenic son and losing two other children. Yet there's no self-pity or whining, and war experiences are candidly recounted. The men's patriotism is dramatized when Stein tells of slight, skinny 19-year-old Harry Handler fighting in Okinawa and becoming a leader. Handler exemplifies a soldier who was patriotic, but didn't view himself as a hero, simply a man with "moral clarity" and a sense of responsibility to his country. On a more personal level, Stein addresses old age through Moe's terror of developing Alzheimer's and Cooper's potentially fatal cancer. The book, however, is never depressing. Attorney Stuart Walzer eloquently sums it up when he says young people look at his friends as "old men waiting to die... we're all gonna be old and waiting to die. It's just a matter of what you do with it."
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