There’s usually one new book during a year that I didn’t read and then — come year’s end — can’t forget. It’s not the same as a book I wished I’d read. There are many new books I wish I’d read January to December. A book missed, though, is one I can’t let go of, or it won’t let go of me.
That book this year is Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath by Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman. Typical to the annual pattern, I learned about the book in forecasts and got a spark of intuition that it’s an important book. I ignored the spark, though, and, also typical to the pattern, the book kept coming to my attention. Publisher’s Weekly defined it as a summer sleeper defying expectation. Dwight Garner in The New York Times on June 16 wrote this, to give you an idea of its content:
“Tears in the Darkness is authoritative history. Ten years in the making, it is based on hundreds of interviews with American, Filipino and Japanese combatants. But it is also a narrative achievement. The book seamlessly blends a wide-angle view with the stories of many individual participants. And at this book’s beating emotional heart is the tale of just one American soldier, a young cowboy and aspiring artist out of Montana named Ben Steele.”
World War II’s 1942 Bataan Death March is grim subject matter that, for some, may best be read after the holiday season’s merry-making. Then again, it may be just the absorbing book in which to seek refuge while we’re mired in a deluge of meaningless materialism. You can read an excerpt from Tears in the Darkness and find out much more on the book’s website. I’ve already ordered the book and plan to dig in right away. The drawings within its pages are from Ben Steele’s sketchbooks that were made during his six decades as an artist and teacher in Billings, Montana.