O'hara's Choice

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In the years following America's terrible Civil War, the fate of the U.S. Marine Corps rests in the capable hands of Zachary O'Hara. A first-generation Irish-American and son of a legendary war hero, O'Hara is the one man who can prevent the dissolution of his father's beloved "Wart-Hogs," thereby ensuring his own future as a valuable member of this proud and vital branch of his nation's armed forces.

But a dark secret weighs heavily on this tormented, dedicated warrior. And the...

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O'Hara's Choice

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In the years following America's terrible Civil War, the fate of the U.S. Marine Corps rests in the capable hands of Zachary O'Hara. A first-generation Irish-American and son of a legendary war hero, O'Hara is the one man who can prevent the dissolution of his father's beloved "Wart-Hogs," thereby ensuring his own future as a valuable member of this proud and vital branch of his nation's armed forces.

But a dark secret weighs heavily on this tormented, dedicated warrior. And the greatest obstacle to his mission is one he never anticipated: Amanda Blanton Kerr, the passionate, obstinate daughter of the ruthless industrialist who's the Corps' fiercest adversary. A beautiful heiress on a mission of her own, her destiny will intertwine with O'Hara's in the tumultuous decades to follow, forcing him to confront the devastating choice no soldier should ever have to make: between his duty and his desire; between his country and his heart.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With this story of a heroic 19th-century Irish-American Marine, the long career of recently deceased bestselling author Uris (Mila 18; Exodus) concludes. Zachary O'Hara, son of a legendary Civil War hero, is the protagonist of Uris's epic adventure, which ranges from Washington, D.C., to Newport, R.I., and from the Civil War to the end of the 19th century. O'Hara grows up on Marine lore and joins the corps as soon as he can, earning a reputation in his own right with hard work and natural ability. When Major Boone affords him the opportunity of a lifetime a chance to save the corps and gain a prominent role in its future he jumps on it. Zach's career takes off and so does his love life, as he falls for the beautiful and headstrong Amanda Kerr. From the outset, though, the relationship is opposed by Zach's Marine superiors and Amanda's stubborn industrialist father, who has other plans for her future. But Amanda suddenly and inexplicably metamorphoses into a cunning businesswoman and pragmatically decides to abandon Zach (whom she continues to pine after). From here, the plot turns aren't plausible. Uris usually connects the many layers of his stories seamlessly; as this novel draws to a conclusion, however, the hasty revelation of family secrets leads to a forced, emotionally unsatisfying ending. Anyone seeking a compelling read should look to Uris's previous works, as this one is certainly the exception to the rule in a prodigious career marked by phenomenal storytelling. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Uris's final novel (the author died June 21) is a tale set in the late 19th century when there were efforts to eliminate the U.S. Marine Corps. While there are moments of excellence, overall the novel is slow moving and curiously lacking in action for a military story. It also lacks focus. For instance, is it the story of a Marine Corps fighting for its existence? If so, Uris takes unnecessary liberties with historical facts or has simply made inexplicable mistakes (why fabricate a giant "Vermont" class of battleships with 14-inch guns when none would exist for more than a decade?). Or is it the story of a romance between young Marine Zach O'Hara, who has to choose between the Corps, and the wealthy, lovely Amanda Kerr? Or is it a commentary on the repressed sexuality, racial injustices, and economic inequalities of the time? Uris was a former marine who had early success with Battle Cry, a novel of Marines in World War II, but this is a disappointing finale. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/03.]-Robert Conroy, Warren, MI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A posthumous novel by Uris, who died, at 78, on June 21, celebrates the Marine Corps, as did his first, Battle Cry, now marking its 50th anniversary. O'Hara's Choice centers on Marines who fought in the Civil War and clarifies how their spirit lives on: especially that of legendary Sergeant Paddy O'Hara, whose courage and élan reside in his son, Captain Zachary O'Hara. Do the men under the O'Haras' commands come as alive and demand our attention as deeply as do the "gyrenes" of Battle Cry? Well, passages of period description in Washington and research into the lives of Manhattan immigrants often stretch forth into a fine singing voice, for it's O'Haras we speak of here. Paddy is Corporal O'Hara as the battle of Bull Run starts and the Marine lines fold against Rebel artillery. Assisting Paddy, whose officers are all dead, is Wally Kunkle, 13, the Marine drummer boy. Time shifts throughout the story, back and forth from battle to decades later, with Paddy given the Congressional Medal of Honor, promoted to the honorary top enlisted rank of Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, and then retired and running a saloon in Lower Manhattan, while Wally Kunkle becomes Master Gunnery Sergeant. All this glory leads to son Zachary's problems with his da's greatness, even when Zach woos Amanda Kerr, a wealthy heiress who wants to build a women's college. Uris's title is ambiguous: it refers to Zach's own long tenure in the Marines serving as a veil to cover up his father's deepest secret, and also to his need to resign from the Corps if he's to marry Amanda, escort her around the world, and help build her college. Bloody battles well done, much excellent period writing (aside from love-stuff), andaltogether a recovery from 2002's woozy A God in Ruins.
Associated Press
“Uris is to the twentieth century what Charles Dickens was to the nineteenth.”
Associated Press Staff
“Uris is to the twentieth century what Charles Dickens was to the nineteenth.”
Chicago Tribune
“[Uris pulls] all his characters together like a master puppeteer.”
Irish Voice
“A brilliant storyteller.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“A spellbinding storyteller.”
USA Today
“A master at weaving historical fact and fiction.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402567858
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 10/21/2003
  • Format: CD

Meet the Author

Internationally acclaimed novelist Leon Uris ran away from home at age seventeen, a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, to join the Marine Corps, and he served at Guadalcanal and Tarawa. His first novel, Battle Cry, was based on his own experiences in the Marines, which he revisited in his final novel, O'Hara's Choice. His other novels include the bestsellers Redemption, Trinity, Exodus, QB VII, and Topaz, among others. Leon Uris passed away in June 2003.

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First Chapter

O'Hara's Choice LP

Chapter One

Paddy's Wart-Hogs

1888 -- Prichard's Inn

The Royal Society of Paddy O'Hara's Wart-Hogs were the ugliest and most vile men to ever wear the uniform of United States Marines. They were molded out of old, stiff, cracked leather.

The Wart-Hogs were an exclusive brotherhood with no pro-vision at inception for perpetuation. There were about eighteen charter members, no one knew the exact number, all men whose lives had been saved in battle through the gallantry of Paddy O'Hara in three, maybe four, separate Civil War actions.

For many years after the War, all who could gathered for an annual donnybrook. As time moved on, many of the reunions took place at graveside and the society grew more exclusive. But no Wart-Hog ever died in the poorhouse. They were bound by the most powerful of all ties, that of men and their comrades in a war.

The Wart-Hog doors were always open to other Wart-Hogs, but they were scattered and burdened with family life and other traumas, so that meetings became occasional and by chance. Only three remained in the Corps. However, it appeared that the rendezvous at Prichard's was by design. Prichard's Inn & Tavern stood on the Post Road in Virginia, across the Potomac from Washington, a most convenient watering hole.

Master Gunnery Sergeant Wally Kunkle was first to arrive by horseback from Quantico down the pike. The Corps had a piece of land there and had established a small, convenient station near the Capitol, where they formed up new units, or housed an overflow from Washington. Quantico had become a nice rest spot and transit center.

Master Gunnery Sergeant Kunkle had been on sea duty and a member of the contingent that ran the Germans out of Samoa. Kunkle had not been home in three years. Well, he actually didn't have a home.

The Gunny wore his forty-odd years well and he cut quite the figure as he rode up to the inn at Prichard's. When the stable boy had seen to the horse's comfort, he came to the Gunny's room and poured buckets of hot water over him in a big galvanized tub to wash away the road dust. Kunkle then repaired to the common room with the large fireplace in the pub and allowed himself to be overtaken by nostalgia.

1840s -- Philadelphia

Wally was the middle child of nine kids, son of a German immigrant who worked as a blacksmith in the Philadelphia police stable. The family lived on a cobblestone alley in a squeezed row cottage in South Philly. During one particularly dirty winter, Wally's mother and an infant sister died of the throat disease.

The children, save Wally, were scattered to relatives, mostly on farms in western Pennsylvania. Wally was a quiet, ornery, angry, fierce kid, and when the authorities came for him, he hid. He was finally taken to a humorless Lutheran orphanage, where his failure to bend to discipline led to corporal punishment.

Wally had a fight a day, sometimes more. After a year of it, he ran away from the orphanage and begged his father to let him remain hidden in the cottage to which he had returned.

The tiny house no longer had the siren lure of baking bread, as it did when Ma was alive, but had deteriorated into a home for rats drawn by the smell and taste of beer.

Wally spent his time near the navy yard on the Delaware River, where street urchins hung out, and picked up penny work doing laundry and running errands for the sailors. It was a highly territorial environment, where one used his fists to stake a claim to work a particular barracks. Wally fought his way to the barrack housing a Marine platoon.

Some of the Marines had been heroes in the wars against Mexico and the Seminole Indians. There were shoes and brass buttons and buckles to be shined and fresh hay to be changed in the bedding and a potbellied stove to be fed and cleaned. And clean he did. The Marines had far fewer bedbugs than the sailors.

Corporal Paddy O'Hara, an Irish immigrant who had survived the terrible potato famine, became Wally's big brother and protector. Wally made it the best job in the navy yard. The Marines were generous with smokes, the currency of the day.

On payday, illegal boxing matches were held beyond the main gates. Marines, sailors, shipyard workers, and visiting crews all had their champions in bare-knuckle pugilism. Before the men went to the pit, kids held preliminary fights for pennies tossed into the ring, and an occasional nickel. For Wally Kunkle at thirteen, this was a bonanza. After a particularly bloody match, there was sometimes as much as a dollar to be divided, seventy–thirty.

As a fighter, Wally Kunkle was cursed with a special gift. He could absorb punches and never go down. His talent, born in the alleys of South Philly and honed at the orphanage, won a lot of beer money for the Marines who bet on him. Wally ran out of competition his own age and size and had to take on bigger kids. "Young Ironsides," the Marines called him, and "Boilerplate" and "Kid Granite Jaw." Even Paddy O'Hara was unable to get Wally to stop fighting heavier and heavier opponents.

Then the inevitable happened. Wally took on an opponent thirty pounds heavier than himself. He showed the courage of a little bull, but absorbed a fearsome beating.

Corporal O'Hara pleaded, in vain, for him to throw in the towel when a sudden change of fortune occurred. Wally's opponent became so exhausted throwing punches that he could no longer lift his arms or catch his breath. And that was that. After laying out the bullyboy, Wally collapsed.

Corporal O'Hara lifted Wally in his arms and carried him back to the barrack and declared his boxing career over ...

O'Hara's Choice LP. Copyright © by Leon Uris. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2014

    Not one of his best, in my opinion.

    . Hard to follow, didn't keep my interest. I am a Uris fan, but this one I set aside without finishing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2006

    O'Hara's Choice - A Lose/Lose

    Leon Uris has been one of my favorite authors, but his final one, O'Hara's Choice, was very disappointing. Its a slow-moving story with little action. The characters seem to be inconsistent in their motivations and the ending of the story was not satisfying. I suspect that Mr. Uris died before he could finish the book and that the published work is an edited partial early draft. If I'm correct, then the publisher and Mr. Uris' estate did not do him justice by publishing it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2005

    O'Hara's Choice Is Poor History

    I know that you shouldn't kick a man when he's dead, but Leon Uris' last work is a major disappointment. As a military buff, I was really upset with his nearly total disregard for facts. For instance, he twice mentions the opening of Japan by Admiral Dewey(!) in the 1850s. (It was Commodore Perry in 1854.) He mentions an assault on Fort Sumter in in Charleston harbor in 1863 with the Marines landing at the fort only to be repulsed. (No Marines ever got close to Ft. Sumter in 1963.) He mentions naval officers discussing the building of battle-cruisers with 14' guns in the 1880s. (The idea of the battle-cruiser, let alone 14' guns was not realized until about 1910 or so.) Other factual errors are there. His fact checker must have been asleep or had no idea of the subject matter. Finally, at its end, the author has to tie up all the loose ends quickly with a trite, almost predictable ending. Too bad. Uris' final effort is not a good one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2003

    One of his best

    This story hits on a subject near and dear to me..the Marines. I have read every book Uris has written and this one on very close to the top. Outstanding work and, very sadly, his last. If you loved Battle Cry, you will love this one also. Give it a try!!!

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    Posted December 7, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 6 Customer Reviews

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