Item description for Reunion by Michael B. Oren...
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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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.8" Width: 6.54" Height: 1.27" Weight: 1.4 lbs.
Release Date May 1, 2003
ISBN 1931561265 ISBN13 9781931561266
Availability 0 units.
More About Michael B. Oren
Michael B. Oren is the author of The Origins of the Second Arab-Israeli War, and has written extensively on Middle Eastern history and diplomatic affairs. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in Middle East studies. He has served as Director of Israel's Department of Inter-Religious Affairs in the government of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and as an adviser to the Israeli delegation to the United Nations. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.
Michael B. Oren currently resides in Jerusalem. Michael B. Oren was born in 1955 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Shalem Center, Jerusalem.
Good read, interesting storyline. Maybe 3.75 stars. Aug 1, 2005
I committed to reading this book primarily because of Oren's previous "Six Days of War." Oren did not disappoint, for the most part. The characters were well-written and the plot was well structured and fairly interesting. However, nothing here read as if it were very new; the revelations have been covered to some extent before by other writers, fiction and non-fiction. Further, the dialogue, though moving, at times reminded the reader that this was the author's first work of fiction. Oren is bound to get better. All in all, though, an enjoyable book.
Old Vets, Old Scores Aug 7, 2003
Been to any bizarre reunions lately? You know, the one where the least attractive girl in high school turns up as the must beautiful lady in the hall. Or that one where the guy who stole the silverware at the Junior class banquet announces that he was just chosen deacon of the local Baptist church. My most memorable is the one where the son of the straight-laced principal introduced the woman he was with as his "current" wife.
Then there are the military reunions. I've been attending mine for more than a decade now and each year the stories, told over and over again in Hernando's Hideaway (the place of the mementos and sometimes free cokes), get more expansive and farther from the truth as the years go by. Something like this must have inspired Michael B. Oren as he made the plot for "Reunion." But it is well beyond a typical gathering of old veterans for a last reprise before the last taps is sounded. This one, like many real reunions of WW II lately, goes back to the scene of the crime. And quite literally as Oren tells it.
One by one and two by two they gather up their aging bodies and broken lives to hobble back to Saint Vith, Belgium in response to an invitation from their company clerk which turns out to be a bit deceptive itself. On the ridge outside the village in the early stages of the German breakthrough in the Battle of the Bulge, Hitler's audacious last gamble, they fought and lost and eventually surrendered. In Oren's vivid imagination, however, quite a lot more than that went on. Every man showing up at the quaint little restored hotel in the Belgium Ardennes has, it seems, a secret to protect or explore as the battle is recalled: the colonel, the major, the lieutenant, the sergeant, the nurse, and the privates. Now on the same civilian level, whether as successful or near-failure practitioners of their slices of the American dream, they are back at the scene to revel or reveal or, perhaps, conceal. We readers get the fun of trying to figure which is which.
Oren writes well of old folks. His characters are right on. He captures the aches and pains, the plodding movements on planes and buses and through airport terminals and hotel lobbies, the fears, and, above all, the regrets. I make that judgment as a veteran of several WW II reunions and the author of a combat memoir. Some of our stories, boldly told as we age, are not to be believed. Yet many are masked, obscured, and camouflaged for reasons worth ferreting out. Thus, the joy of reading "Reunion" and wallowing in the mysteries the author spins.
I have only one bone to pick. While Oren is grand at fleecing out character he is a bit weak on the military setting. I never quite figured out what kind of unit this was which ended up, at least most of them, as prisoners of war on the ridge that day. The book jacket calls it the 138th Infantry Battalion. Inside the text it is the 133rd Infantry Battalion. But the typo is not the nit I'm picking. It is the lack of any satisfactory description of what kind of outfit this purports to be and what it was doing at Saint Vith. World War II infantry battalions (with the exception of a few stand alone battalions like the 100th made up of Japanese-American soldiers) were typically numbered 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, three to a regiment, nine to a division: e.g. 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry (Regiment), 34th Division which fought in North Africa and italy. They were commanded by an officer with the rank of Major. But in the case of the 133rd we have a Colonel as commanding officer who shows up at Saint Vith in pursuit of mischief. So Oren must have created an off the wall special unit for his part humorous, part nefarious goings on. Fine, as there were such unattached units like field artillery battalions, engineer battalions, and so on, as well as the Japanese-American Battalion. Yet were they top heavy in rank with a Colonel sitting atop a Major? And the story would have ringed more true if readers had been let in on whether their job was to shoot artillery, build bridges, or whatever. They appear to be infantry soldiers. But if so, why that 133rd designation? The only thing clear in this regard is that they were not the 100th Nisei Battalion. (Yeah, I know it's fiction but the nomenclature ought to be in the ball park.)
We go, I guess as we get older, to reunions not simply to salivate in nostalgia but to validate our lives and view them in a more meaningful texture. Like most things we never know how they will turn out, these get togethers with the past, and are often surprised. So if you are contemplating one, or have been already, you are likely to particularly enjoy this book irrespective of the nature of the 133rd Battalion.
great plot; great characters; great novel Jul 12, 2003
I'm not much of a fiction reader (generally preferring history and historical novels), but found Michael Oren's first novel to be irresistible. The story has an intriguing premise about septuagenarian World War Two vets returning to Belgium to re-live their Battle of the Bulge experiences. The plot is original and storyline bold and fast-paced, but the vivid characters are best of all. These are our aged parents and grandparents facing down old demons and re-affirming life at a time when many of them were playing out the string. I want to emphasize that this book is NOT just for military or history buffs. Readers with a variety of tastes will find "Reunion" extremely difficult to put down. Recommended.
A Fantastic Read, Especially for Diehard World War II Buffs Jun 14, 2003
Michael B. Oren's debut novel, REUNION, reemphasizes the time-honored adage among soldiers that war is hell. Not only does REUNION bring to life the early days of the "Battle of the Bulge" against the Nazis in the Ardennes forest near the tail end of 1944, it examines the aftermath of war via an ensemble of soldiers that fought gallantly and not so gallantly for the 133rd Infantry Battalion. Through the use of flashbacks, Oren paints a riveting landscape that places the reader in the thick of the battle.
After receiving invitations to return to the Ardennes for a reunion some 50 years after the battle, several veterans like Buddy Hill, Francis Spagnola and Pieter Martinson make the trek back to Belgium to commemorate the anniversary of the conflict. While the reunion is somewhat a joyous occasion at first, it ultimately becomes for many of the veterans a journey they won't soon forget.
Oren, author of the bestselling nonfiction book, SIX DAYS OF WAR: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, has an incredible talent for conveying to the reader exactly what it was like to be submerged deep in a foxhole, freezing to death --- something many American soldiers experienced during the battle. He also provides a measurable amount of mystery in the novel.
During the veterans' return to Saint Vith, or the "Sandpit" as they like to call it, some unexpected guests arrive who throw the entire entourage into a tizzy. Without giving away the plot, the veteran who orchestrated the reunion never shows and is instead replaced by his son, Richard. When asked of his father's whereabouts, Richard calmly tells them that his father, Label Perlmutter, is dead.
Another guest arrives after receiving the invitation of her deceased brother, Dean Featherstone, who was believed to be killed in the battle. Or was he? Also along for the reunion is Army nurse Alma Wheatty. Sorry, you'll have to read the book to find out what happens to poor Alma.
For the most part, REUNION is a fantastic read, especially for diehard World War II buffs, like this reviewer. Although the story seems to drag along at times, Oren does yeoman's work in his numerous depictions of combat. I guess all those World War II stories Oren's father told him as a kid really paid off.
--- Reviewed by David Exum
GREAT READ! Jun 3, 2003
I've read Oren's bestselling nonfiction, SIX DAYS OF WAR, and found his fiction debut, REUNION, just as informative and even more entertaining. Filled with detail of WWII battle and how it changes the lives of soldiers forever, the return of one combat unit to the site that changed their lives 50 years later is powerful, complex, and inspiring. And there's a mystery inside to boot! If you like military fiction you'll love this!