Oh, Johnny: A Novel

Oh, Johnny: A Novel

2.5 2
by Jim Lehrer
     
 

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BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Jim Lehrer's Tension City.

A talented athlete, Johnny Wrigley believes that someday he will play major league baseball. But his life unexpectedly takes a detour. In April 1944, Johnny is a newly minted marine on a troop train heading west for California, where he will be shipped overseas to fight in theSee more details below

Overview

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Jim Lehrer's Tension City.

A talented athlete, Johnny Wrigley believes that someday he will play major league baseball. But his life unexpectedly takes a detour. In April 1944, Johnny is a newly minted marine on a troop train heading west for California, where he will be shipped overseas to fight in the Pacific Theater. At a brief stop in Wichita, Johnny gets off the train and falls in love with the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. In a storeroom at the station, they share an intimacy that Johnny will treasure for the next two years at war—and beyond.

In Peleliu and Okinawa, nothing prepares Johnny for the terrible events that will haunt him forever. During fierce combat, inspiring thoughts of Betsy Luck (the name Johnny has given his Kansas love) keep him safe. Two years later, Johnny is back in Wichita, searching for the girl he wants to marry. But fate has different plans for Johnny, his long-dreamed-of baseball career, and the girl whose memory helped him survive.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

PBS NewsHour anchor Lehrer mixes baseball, WWII and romance in his 19th novel to mostly pleasant results. Even though Johnny Wrigley, from smalltown Lafayette, Md., is being scouted by the Detroit Tigers, he enlists in the Marines in April 1944 to "kill Japs for America." En route to deployment, Johnny meets Betsy, a striking but naïvely religious doughnut girl, falls instantly in love and seduces her. He vows he'll return for her, a quixotic obsession that sustains him through grittily rendered combat scenes in the Pacific. At the war's end, Johnny returns with marriage on his mind. But Betsy can't be found, and Johnny ends up in Baltimore with a menial bus company job and his big league dreams rekindled. But those, like his romantic fantasy, remain out of reach. Though Johnny's obsessive love for Betsy is a bit hard to swallow, his troubled postwar reintegration is nicely handled and gives readers insight into a Greatest Generation leatherneck. (Mar.)

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Kirkus Reviews
A young ex-Marine pursues two ideals, a major-league baseball career and a young woman he knows only as Betsy, in Lehrer's bittersweet 19th novel (Mack to the Rescue, 2008, etc.). It's 1944, and Johnny Wrigley is 17 and green as grass when the troop transport taking him from Baltimore to California stops off in Wichita, Kan. Though the stop lasts barely half an hour, it's long enough for Johnny to lose his virginity with Betsy, one of the girls who came to meet the train with apples and smokes for the recruits. Johnny can see that Betsy is religious in an oddly directive way he's never encountered before. But he also knows from the first that he loves her in a way he'll never love anyone else, and in a series of letters he composes but never writes down, he pledges his love and vows that he'll return. That turns out to be a tall order. First Johnny has to survive brutal combat on the island of Peleliu, where he's been trained to use a flamethrower-an assignment that turns him into a target and gives him a worm's-eye view of horrific casualties, including those he inflicts himself. Then, on his return stateside, he has to search fruitlessly through Wichita and environs for Betsy before giving up and returning home to Lafayette, Md. Eagerly embraced by his fond mother and the kid sister of a friend who was killed in Europe, Johnny reverts to his original dream: becoming a baseball star in the mold of his idol, Brooklyn Dodgers center fielder Pete Reiser. This dream also goes bad, leaving Johnny with nothing but a menial job and his hopes of returning to both baseball and Betsy. Eventually his dreams come true, but not quite in the way he expected. The understated tone of this Everyman'sCitizen Kane perfectly suits Lehrer's gifts, as he eschews his usual satiric stance for a warmhearted evocation of the road not taken.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781588367860
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/24/2009
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,141,277
File size:
2 MB

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