Michael B. Oren Reunion: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9781931561266

Reunion: A Novel

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9781931561266: Reunion: A Novel

From the best-selling nonfiction author, Michael B. Oren comes his first novel. Set in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest, the site of a brutal, last-ditch assault by the Nazis in December 1944, Reunion reunites the surviving members of the 133rd Infantry Battalion for one last chance to relive their youth, bury some old ghosts, and try to find answers to the mystery that has haunted the men for fifty years.

Through these disparate and vivid characters, we learn of the other story of the 133rd—a story of the lingering effects of war, the potency of the human spirit and the courage that even simple men can muster, both at the beginning and the end of their lives.

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About the Author:

Michael B. Oren has authored numerous studies on the history and politics of the Middle East. A graduate of Princeton and Columbia, he has received fellowships from the U.S. departments of State and Defense, and from the British and Canadian governments. In Israel, he has been a Lady Davis Fellow at Hebrew University and a Moshe Dayan Fellow at Tel-Aviv University.

He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Six Days of War: June 1967 and The Making of the Modern Middle East, published in 2002 by Oxford University Press. Reunion is his first novel.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

"Surrendering? The toughest thing I ever had to do. There you are colder than a witch’s tit—pardon me, Genie—with no food left, no bandages. Almost out of ammo. I got dead—Toth, you remember him, Rhys, Barkin. I got wounded like you, Vicar, only it’s too late now to get them off the ridge. We’re surrounded. And somebody’s got to decide. Sure as hell’s not going to be the Colonel, who’s off doin’ shit-what in his hole. Somebody’s got to decide but ain’t much time left. One more assault and the Krauts’ll kill us."

The Major’s voice, wave-like, swept over the other conversations around the hall, extinguishing them. Soon all the veterans were listening to him, and none more intensely than Alma. Relieved to be free of Ralph McCloski, his critical description of strip-mines, she turned her chair to face the Major, at an angle that practically forced him to face her.

And he did, rising from his table to his brief but hardened height. "So I decided, and I told you men, I told you. Said I’d gone down first. Only I ain’t got no white flag—nothing’s white anymore, least of all my skivvies. All I got is my hands, and I put ’em up like this." Arms, hands elevated over his head and its scrubby strands of hair.

"I’m coming down and I’m thinking ‘don’t shoot! Don’t shoot, you Nazi bastards!’ Thinking I’m going to get one, sure ’nough, right between the eyes. But they don’t shoot me. Bastards too damned shocked themselves. I go down and some Kraut privates take me—shit, weren’t no more’n kids. Take my watch, my cigarettes, then they bring me to this officer of theirs, this SS sleaze with a skull n’ crossbones on his cap. Thinks he’s Long John Silver, only he’s speaking English better’n I do. Tells me I’m a prisoner of war, like I don’t know this, and says we’ll be treated according to the Geneva Convention. Only that was a crock, and you men know it, ’cause they beat us and they starved us and they marched and worked us to death."

The Major stopped. His hands drooped, his head, too, and when he next looked up, his eyes had reddened and watered. You could hear the lump in his throat. "I read somewhere recently that they found some British pilots from the war, RAF guys, frozen solid. In Iceland, I think it was; their plane had crashed. Found ’em sittin’ in the ice like nothin’ had ever happened. Like they were waitin’ for their next orders to come through. I read that and I thought, ‘hell, that’s what I woulda liked. Frozen in my foxhole, fifty years or more, ’til somebody come along and find me.’ Anything been better than makin’ that decision I made. The hardest thing ever."

A stark tense quiet filled the hall. Buddy stared at the Major but the Major was gazing distantly, scratching the bridge of his nose. The old men glanced at one another, and an awkwardness began to congeal. Then, suddenly, with a squeal of a chair, Alma rose with her glass. "A toast!" she declared.

Another clumsy moment passed, while no one joined in her gesture. No one looked at her except for the Major, and with an expression slightly confused. "Miss?"

"Wheatty. Alma Wheatty. Mrs. We met before. The nurse, remember?"

"Ah, yes, Miss Wheatty," he said, and the spark rekindled in his eyes. He, too, raised his glass. "A toast, then. But to what? Pappy? The 133rd? Hell, we’ve done it all..."

"To you, of course," Alma replied and aimed her glass straight at him. "To the Major!" she exclaimed, and the men—those still cogent—echoed her:

"The Major!"

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