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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
Apricots: A War Novel by John E. Holloway is a historically rooted and exquisitely written account from a Marine Lieutenant’s perspective. It conveys his experiences in Grenada and Beirut, Lebanon. Each chapter is headed by direct quotes from the New York Times, the Washington Post, Life magazine, and others. Though the novel is not a first-person piece, it feels like it because the point of view seldom leaves the protagonist, Lt. Robert Forrest, as he graduates from Virginia Military Institute with the refrain, “You will get shot at. You will return fire.” Then we are with him in his training as a platoon leader of a squadron of nautical-invasion amtracs and as he muses about his life, the world, and his place in it. We experience the detour invasion of a Caribbean island en route to the Vietnam-like standoff in the Middle East. Finally, we feel the desolation, futility, and non-ending danger of cannon and sniper fire in Beirut.
I immediately became engrossed in this exciting, thoughtful, eye-opening, and heartfelt tale. In places, Apricots reads almost like poetry: “… sleet specs bounced off his helmet like dancing albino knats.” Author John E. Holloway shows us what happens in military life but also what it truly feels like. The protagonist, Lt. Robert Forrest, loves being a Marine and being alive. He notices the ocean, the sky, his fellow Marines, and he describes his roots in the Virginia mountains and the disenchanted patriotism of his Marine father. Lt. Forrest personifies the expression "esprit de corps," and he both exemplifies and demonstrates bravery, courage, and empathy. And we chuckle at the stories told in bunkers and ships about personal histories and - so unexpectedly - opera librettos. And, of course, the legendary apricots! John E. Holloway, author and always a Marine, has given us a masterpiece in reality and - dare I say it - the joy and beauty of fighting for his country.