I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Sgt. Steve Maharidge, like many of his generation, hardly ever talked about the war. The only sign he'd served in it was a single black and white photograph of himself and another soldier tacked to the wall of his basement, where he would grind steel. After Steve Maharidge’s death, his son Dale, now an adult, began a twelve-year quest to understand his father’s preoccupation with the photo. What had happened during the battle for Okinawa, and why his father had remained silent about his experiences and the man in the picture, Herman Mulligan? In his search for answers, Maharidge sought out the survivors of Love Company, many of whom had never before spoken so openly and emotionally about what they saw and experienced on Okinawa.
In Bringing Mulligan Home, Maharidge delivers an affecting narrative of war and its aftermath, of fathers and sons, with lessons for the children whose parents are returning from war today.
I picked this book up at the library for my real-life book club, not sure if I was truly going to read it or not. The subject matter is certainly outside my normal areas of interest, since I’m not much interested in military history, despite the fact that I catalogued books for a Military Museum Library for a number of years. Actually maybe because I had that job!
I was pleasantly surprised by this combination biography/memoir/history. I’ve been experiencing insomnia lately and I started this book expecting it to put me to sleep. Imagine my surprise when I found myself much more interested and engaged than I expected! I think what won me over was the author’s exploration of his relationship with his father and his striving to understand his father’s life. Anyone who wishes they had asked their father more questions will identify with his quest, although not all of them will travel to Japan to pursue these questions.
I was also pleasantly surprised by his willingness to track down and record the remembrances of men who served in the US Marines alongside his father and to go to Okinawa, where they fought, to get the Japanese perspective on the story.
I have fond memories of my own trip to Okinawa in 2013, in pursuit of the Okinawa Rail, among other birds. I was charmed by the local people, the beautiful environment, and, of course, the bird life.
The guest house where we stayed on Okinawa
The traditional accommodations at our guest house
The lovely breakfast provided by our landlady
We saw signs before we saw the real Okinawa Rail
Success! The Okinawa Rail
The giant Okinawa Rail statue on the island