PUBLICATION DATE: SEPTEMBER 01, 2012
uthor Dan Walsh has, what surely will be, another award winning novel with his latest book The Reunion.
Aaron Miller served courageously in Vietnam. So courageously that he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor … the highest honor given for military service, for saving the lives of three men ambushed by the enemy. Yet Aaron Miller would be the last person calling himself a hero. Like so many men returning from that war, life did not greet him with accolades or even decency. After months of rehabilitation due to wounds received in that battle, Aaron was a broken man. He nearly lost his life but ultimately did lose his wife who forced him to leave when she could handle him no more. Aaron walked away from her and his two children and eventually wound up living on the streets, addicted to drugs and alcohol.
But that was forty years ago. This book starts out in the present day. Aaron is now a handyman for a rundown trailer park in Florida, living in nothing but a shack. He’s been clean for years, thanks to a preacher at a local church who ministered to him one Thanksgiving when Aaron came for his annual free dinner. He’s given his life to Christ and, even though it doesn’t seem like much of a life, Aaron is well loved by those in that small, trailer park community.
Unbeknownst to Aaron, for years those three soldiers whose lives he saved have been looking for him so that he could become part of their regularly held reunions. They owe him a debt of gratitude and wish to let him know. All now very well off financially, they can afford to hire Dave Russo, a Florida journalist working on a book about Vietnam heroes, to track down Aaron Miller. A man with the story of all stories! With only the smallest of information about this elusive man, Dave is able to track down Aaron’s two adult children, now living in Texas. Problems arise from the very beginning when Dave discovers that, while one of Aaron’s children, his son, Steve, anxiously wants to know more about his father, the daughter, Karen, does not.
Dave, a widowed man in his forties, Karen, also in her forties but never married, hit it off well despite the reason that’s brought them together. While readers will easily detect where the author is going with this storyline, it’s so well done that the predictability is gratifying.
A bevy of characters is introduced in this book but all seem to point to the fact that Aaron is one likeable person with a good heart and strong emotions when it comes to acting fast to save lives. Each character is added to enhance this part of the storyline but never in a way that is overbearing or tiring. I liked each and every one of them and was glad the author blended them into The Reunion.
This book handles the topic of the Vietnam War and the way veterans were treated returning from that war in an excellent manner. The author spares nothing in his description of what it was like for so many wounded and battered men returning home. However, this is not a book about the Vietnam War, per se. Rather, it’s about having a faith that sees you through the worst of times. It’s about reconciliation after years of betrayal. It’s about honor and recognition from people whose lives were touched by an amazing man.
By the second to the last chapter I could barely read the words through my wall of tears. I won’t spoil the ending but will only say, have your tissue box nearby. You’ll need it. This book was a feel good book from the very beginning, never wavering throughout, and ended exactly the way you want it to end. Mr. Walsh has done another excellent job of grabbing your heart and keeping you rooting for the good guy to the very end. Well done Mr. Walsh … well done!
aron Miller is the kind of person that people tend not to notice. A handyman at a trailer park in Florida, Aaron lives a quiet life serving the people around him – people who would never suspect that he is actually a hero.
Forty years ago Aaron Miller saved the lives of three men who belonged to his battalion in Vietnam. But when he came home from those battles, he faced battles of his own. Addicted, homeless, and without his family, Aaron struggled to break free from the hold that the war had on him. Even though he found God and cleaned up his act, Aaron is still alone.
But not for long.
The diligent search of a determined journalist, Dave Russo, will put all of the pieces together to form a reunion beyond what Aaron ever expected – the homecoming fit for a hero.
I will be the first to admit that I am not a fan of sappy stories. Now, you may wonder how I can read almost exclusively historical fiction romances and then say that I don’t like sappy stories. Well, I personally think that just because a book is a romance doesn’t mean that it is sappy, and I think most historical fiction doesn’t come off as sappy.
You know what I’m talking about – the stories that put just the right situations and sentimental words in them for the sole purpose of making you cry. They are so contrived that you can see them coming a mile away. I know that a lot of people enjoy these books, and I have no problem with that. But I usually just end up rolling my eyes.
Which brings me to this novel, The Reunion. It has a lot of the things that should make it just another sappy story – a whirlwind romance, a forgotten hero – it even takes place at Christmas!
But I loved it.
Somehow the things in this novel didn’t come off as too sappy, and I can’t explain why they didn’t. All I know is that Dan Walsh can spin a great tale.
What struck me most about this book was that the people in it seemed so real. They acted how real people would act. (I loved the ‘blind date’ for Karen toward the beginning of the book – hilarious). The conversations even flowed in a normal manner, and it never felt as if any of the words that were spoken were contrived. The romance in the novel wasn’t unrealistic, either, even though it was a love-at-first-sight scenario.
I also was inspired by the humbleness of Aaron. It would sometimes irk me when Aaron would seem to brush off what he did in Vietnam as unimportant, but then I realized that this is what makes a great hero. A hero isn’t someone who seeks out fame and fortune and glory. It is someone who does what is required of him and is even willing to give his life for his friends. And Aaron’s relationship with God is so clear. He is quick to point out to others that his turnaround was through Christ alone.
I will say that the scene that takes place in Vietnam was hard for me to read, mainly because battle scenes can be disturbing, but I realize that it was necessary for the buildup of that part of the story. You can tell from this novel that the author has a great deal of respect for the U.S. Armed forces, and I appreciated how everything surrounding the war and the veterans was portrayed.
I wasn’t sure at first how all of these somewhat random storylines I was reading were going to fit together. But they did. And beautifully. Karen, Dave, John, Billy, Heather – all of these characters’ stories are woven together expertly to bring about a reunion for Aaron Miller and to give him the homecoming that he always deserved.