Book Review: O'Hara's Choice, by Leon Uris...

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

November 1st, 2003, 9:09 pm #1

From the Publisher
"In the years following the Civil War, first-generation Irish-American Zachary O'Hara, son of a legendary Marine and a force of a man in his own right, finds himself playing a critical role in the very future of the Marines. If he can persuade the Secretary of the Navy that the Marines are more crucial than ever to America's safety and security - all the while hefting a heavier secret weight in his heart - he'll save the Corps and make his career." "But there's an obstacle in his path that this warrior had not planned on. Amanda Blanton Kerr, the daughter of a ruthless industrialist, is a woman on a mission of her own: passionate, obstinate, and whip-smart, she's an heiress poised to blaze a trail for her sex." O'Hara's Choice is the story of the inevitable collision of these two handsome, fighting spirits. Getting their souls' desire could jeopardize everything they - and their parents before them - scraped and struggled to achieve.

From The Critics
Publisher's 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. ... 0060568739 ... 0060568739

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Reviewers have noted that Uris has taken liberty in his last book with certain historic facts; one liberty taken, but not as yet noted--that I have seen--is his use of the rank of MGySgt, which did not yet exist during the time frame of the book.

The Rank of Gunnery Sergeant came into existence in the Marine Corps in 1898, and it was not until 1934-37 that the grade of MGySgt was added. The MGySgt disappeared from the Marine Corps rank structure, as did the rank of GySgt, in 1946, not to reappear again until another rank structure change in 1959.

See the numerous webpages on Marine History of rank, etc. on GyG webpages...

-Dick Gaines

Last edited by Dick Gaines on November 1st, 2003, 9:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.