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In 1998, Frank Schaeffer was a bohemian novelist living in "Volvo driving, higher-education worshipping" Massachusetts with two children graduated from top universities. Then his youngest child, straight out of high school, joined the United States Marine Corps. Written in alternating voices by eighteen-year-old John and his father, Frank, Keeping Faith takes readers in riveting fashion through a family's experience of the Marine Corps: from being broken down and built back up on Parris Island (and being the ...
In 1998, Frank Schaeffer was a bohemian novelist living in "Volvo driving, higher-education worshipping" Massachusetts with two children graduated from top universities. Then his youngest child, straight out of high school, joined the United States Marine Corps. Written in alternating voices by eighteen-year-old John and his father, Frank, Keeping Faith takes readers in riveting fashion through a family's experience of the Marine Corps: from being broken down and built back up on Parris Island (and being the parent of a child undergoing that experience), to the growth of both father and son and their separate reevaluations of what it means to serve. From Frank's realization that among his fellow soccer dads "the very words ‘boot camp' were pejorative, conjuring up ‘troubled youths at risk'" ("'But aren't they all terribly southern?' asked one parent") to John's learning that "the Marine next to you is more important than you are," Keeping Faith — a New York Times bestseller — is a fascinating and personal examination of issues of class, duty, and patriotism. The fact that John is currently serving in the Middle East only adds to the impact of this wonderfully written, timely, and moving human interest story.
Every month, thousands of moms and dads send their sons to the Marine Corps Recruit Depots at Parris Island, SC or San Diego, CA. I felt many of the same emotions the author felt without all the drama.
In some ways I felt sorry for the young Marine, John. It was almost like the dad was ashamed to tell his friends that his son was in the Marine Corps. However, the dad did manage to break out of his liberal malaise and actually mention some of the good things about this country that our Marines have been defending for 235 years.
I recommend Making the Corps by Thomas Ricks. A much better book.
Posted August 23, 2004
I wish this book had been written before my son left for Parris Island in 1999. The only vision I had of Boot Camp was from the movie 'Full Metal Jacket'. Not very encouraging for a future Marine mom! My son finished Boot Camp just fine, entered the Fleet, fought in Iraq, and returned home safely. Still, I felt the need to understand what he had gone through when I was home struggling during his three months in Parris Island. I needed to know what exactly happened to transform him from a boy into a man. So I read the book. John Schaeffer gives excellent descriptions of his daily existence and activities. He also shows us the ebb and flow of his emotions throughout Boot Camp via letters and poems to his dad. We also follow his relationship with his girlfriend, whom Frank doesn't like. Marine Boot camp is a really tough training program, not for the weak or faint-hearted and I found myself rooting him on when things got difficult. Meanwhile, Frank provides us with insight into his own struggles- trying to provide emotional support and encouragement to John, dealing with constant worry about him, and finding quality time to give to his marriage. Besides those concerns, Frank was writing his book, as well as becoming a community activist. Interestingly, Frank must also cope with the attitude of 'friends' and neighbors, who have a rather poor opinion of John's choice to become a Marine. In their eyes, it's troubled teens from the South who become Marines, not well-off private schooled Northern boys! They feel sorry for Frank because his son joined the Corps instead of chosing college. Frank admits to us that, at first, he was a bit disappointed himself, but he came to have an enormous amount of pride in John's decision as time went on. It wasn't John's choice of the Marine Corps that bothered him, but rather the choice to not attend college. The correspondence between father and son clearly reflects the love they have for each other, but it's not sugar-coated. We can see that John is seeking to become his own person, away from his parents. His transformation into a man is beginning. He doesn't always agree with his dad, which frustrates Frank. Yes, this is very realistic and very familiar. I could personally relate to Frank's worries and fears, as can most Marine Corps families. This book will help families to understand what's happening in their recruit's life for those tormenting three months. Yet, when those recruits walk across the Parade Deck on graduation day, there's never a dry eye in the house. I think anyone who reads the book first will have an even greater appreciation of the feats that their Marine has overcome to get to graduation day. Frank and John take us along on their ride! A great read for anyone, but especially for families of Marines or future Marines.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 2, 2004
This book is a must read for any Marine parent who has a son or daughter going to boot camp. You will find a kindred spirit in Frank, who echos your anxieties, fears and pride in having a child who has chosen the challenge of becoming a Marine. John speaks from the heart and doesn't mince words about the realities of boot camp. His poems and essays are laced with humor and show the teamwork that he and his fellow Marines have had to learn to succeed. If you or your child are considering the Corps -read this book - it will answer many questions and get you through some sleepless nights!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.