Yarbrough writes with quiet compassion about Loring's black population, its reluctance to fight for a country that has so consistently betrayed its democratic promise. To this combustible setting will come a peculiar prisoner, one with an ''angry purple stain, either a birthmark or a rash,'' who speaks broken English and haunts one of the Loring natives assigned to guard him. It is the fate of this mysterious captive that once again forces the people of Loring to confront what it means to be American, and all the unexpected -- and often unwarranted -- sacrifices that identity might comprise.
Laura C. Moser
Set in the same small Mississippi town as Yarbrough's critically acclaimed Visible Spirits, this complex WWII-era novel explores questions of morality and social inequity in the rural South when a group of German POWs are quartered at a local camp and sent to work as day laborers on nearby farms. The novel opens with the uncomfortable friendship between young Dan Timms, who drives one of his enterprising Uncle Alvin's "rolling stores" (old school buses boasting all the necessities of country life: sodas, coal-oil lamps, radios), and L.C. Stevens, the black employee who drives the other. While L.C. vainly struggles to make his work partner see the "parallel universe" in which black Americans are trapped, Dan yearns to join the army and escape the fresh memory of his father's recent suicide and his suspicions about his mother's past. But Dan's friend Marty Stark shows him another side of war when he returns damaged and changed from the German theater and is reassigned to help guard the town's German POWs. The story shifts subtly when a Polish prisoner informs Dan of an escape planned by several other prisoners, setting in motion a chain of events that eventually brings Marty's troubled war memories to the surface. Meanwhile, L.C. suffers a beating by an older, powerful white man who, after losing his own son in the war, uses his influence to ensure that the young black man is drafted. The multiple subplots slow the novel's pace, but Yarbrough's warm, measured voice, clean prose and rich character studies make this an unusually tender and accomplished study of the reverberations of war on the home front. Agent, Sloan Harris. (Jan. 23) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Loring, Mississippi in 1943 is the setting for this novel about several young men who struggle with their individual demons against the backdrop of war and class in their hometown. Dan Timms eagerly awaits his 18th birthday. He can't wait for the draft board to send him to war, so that he can escape the dusty town and all of its dark memories. Dan's father had served in the military during WW I, and the reverberations of that terrible experience extended to his entire family. L.C., Dan's friend since childhood, wants to escape, too, but he has no desire to fight in the war. L.C. is black, and he knows that military service would mean working on the front lines, but not being given a gun to protect himself. He wants to head to Chicago and play blues guitar, but he knows the danger he'd face on the road; only in Loring is he safe from service, as Dan's uncle has paid off the draft board on his behalf. Marty Stark, who grew up with Dan, has returned from the war. For reasons no one knows, he has been reassigned to guarding German POWs who are participating in a work program on American farms. All three youth are haunted by their upbringing; all three are changed by the sacrifices that are being demanded by their country. Steve Yarbrough's account of war is grim and gripping. Librarians considering this book for their collections should be aware that Yarbrough explores the convergence of sex and violence in sometimes-graphic ways. Scenes such as a boy contemplating a visit to a hooker or a soldier attempting to masturbate to orgasm may make this a controversial choice for some libraries. Still, war is dark and graphic and difficult, and Yarbrough may be commended for not sugarcoating it.KLIATT Codes: SARecommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2004, Random House, Vintage, 287p., Ages 15 to adult.
Heidi Hauser Green
Yarbrough, author of the critically acclaimed post-Reconstruction novel Visible Spirits, returns with a complex and emotional tale set in a depressed Mississippi farming town in 1943. Dan Timms eagerly anticipates the freedom that his 18th birthday will supposedly bring. Operator of a "rolling store" that offers provisions to local farmers, he is desperate to escape the torment of his father's recent suicide and his mother's anguish and guilt. On the other hand, Dan's friend, Marty Stark, has returned from the war with no illusions. He has been reassigned, "coincidentally," to his hometown to monitor the German POWs who work the lush cotton fields. Set against a society entrenched in racism and misguided youth, this tale uses crisp, concise prose to highlight the effect war has on its prisoners, both at home and abroad. Fans of stark, character-driven novels with a Southern Gothic setting will be drawn to this work. Recommended for larger public libraries with an emphasis on midlist fiction titles.-Christopher J. Korenowsky, New Albany Lib., Columbus, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Stark, haunting third novel by Yarbrough (Visible Spirits, 2001, etc.) limns a Mississippi Delta community whose destiny is grimly shaped by the war thousands of miles away. In the summer of 1943, Dan Timms drives a "rolling store" for his shady uncle Alvin, selling snacks and supplies to local farmers while waiting to turn 18 so he can enlist. His father recently committed suicide, perhaps because Dan's mother was sleeping with Alvin, but more likely because the WWI veteran remained shattered by his combat experiences. Dan's childhood buddy Marty Stark, sent home from Europe to guard German soldiers at a nearby POW camp, is even more obviously traumatized; he's a time bomb waiting for the fuse to be lit. L.C., the18-year-old African-American who drives Alvin's second rolling store, barely acts servile enough to satisfy the white folks and has no intention of donning a uniform to fight for his oppressors. No one's under any illusions about what life in Mississippi is like for L.C.'s people. "If you were colored, would you die for this country?" Alvin asks the white head of the draft board. "Not unless somebody shot me," the man replies, grinning. In Yarbrough's vision, a brutal, unjust social order imprisons blacks and whites alike; among the many superbly complex characters is a desolate father, grieving for his son killed at the Kasserine Pass, who's also a vicious racist. Dark though the story is, right down to its apocalyptic climax at the POW camp, the author's unsentimental compassion and technical mastery make for an exhilarating read. Yarbrough cogently develops his themes within a compelling plot and a rich portrait of the small town of Loring, where everyone knows everyone, butno one is merely what they seem. War changes a man into another person, and the enemy is simply a guy on the wrong side. The only meaningful difference, the tortured Marty concludes, is between human beings who are alive and those who are dead. Philosophically troubling, artistically thrilling, and thoroughly impressive.
"The highest kind of art, full of subtlety and sensitivity.” –Dallas Morning News
"Yarbrough writes with quiet compassion . . . [about] what it means to be American, and all the unexpected–and often unwarranted–sacrifices that identity might comprise." –The New York Times Book Review
“In this powerful, understated novel, [Yarbrough] finds a way to describe how fleeting moments between people slowly accrue and gather the heaviness of fate.” –The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Vivid and dramatic. . . . Prisoners of War is smart and entertaining.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“Yarbrough has created a timely war novel that is refreshingly unpredictable yet as comfortable as an old boot.” –The Oregonian