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What Would You Do for Love? - An Editorial Review of "An Enemy Like Me"

Book Blurb:

The Literary Titan Silver Award The 2022 CIBAs HEMINGWAY - Long List

What Would You Do for Love?

An Enemy Like Me, written by award-winning author Teri M Brown, is a powerful novel of love, war, and the complexities of family and identity. How does a man show his love – for country, for heritage, for family – during a war that sets the three at odds? What sets in motion the necessity to choose one over the other? How will this choice change everything and everyone he loves? Jacob Miller, a first-generation American, grew up in New Berlin, a small German immigrant town in Ohio where he endured the Great Depression, met his wife, and started a family. Though his early years were not easy, Jacob believes he is headed toward his ‘happily ever after’ until a friend is sent to an internment camp for enemy combatants, and the war lands resolutely on his doorstep. In An Enemy Like Me, Teri M Brown uses the backdrop of World War II to show the angst experienced by Jacob, his wife, and his four-year-old son as he left for and fought in a war he did not create. She explores the concepts of xenophobia, intrafamily dynamics, and the recognition that war is not won and lost by nations, but by ordinary men and women and the families who support them. If you are a fan of historical fiction with a love for heartfelt, introspective war stories, then you’ll enjoy An Enemy Like Me by award-winning author Teri M Brown. This emotional saga explores war and its impacts in unique ways that few military fiction novels do. This is definitely a novel that deserves to be on a historical fiction lovers’ TBR list! Buy the novel today to discover what you would do for love.

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Author Bio:

Born in Athens, Greece as an Air Force brat, Teri M Brown came into this world with an imagination full of stories to tell. She now calls the North Carolina coast home, and the peaceful nature of the sea has been a great source of inspiration for her creativity.

Not letting 2020 get the best of her, Teri chose to go on an adventure that changed her outlook on life.

She and her husband, Bruce, rode a tandem bicycle across the United States from Astoria, Oregon to Washington DC, successfully raising money for Toys for Tots. She learned she is stronger than she realized and capable of anything she sets her mind to.

Teri is a wife, mother, grandmother, and author who loves word games, reading, bumming on the beach, taking photos, singing in the shower, hunting for bargains, ballroom dancing, playing bridge, and mentoring others.

Get Teri's Exclusive list "The 10 Historical Fiction Novels That You’ve Never Heard of That Will Bring You to Tears" simply by signing up for her newsletter!

Editorial Review:

Teri M. Brown's novel 'An Enemy Like Me' strikes a number of common and deeply held themes very early on and maintains them throughout. Jacob Miller, perhaps the central figure of this tale of a family caught up by war, is a first generation German American. So overwhelmingly proud of the fact that he is an American is he that he changes his family name to an anglicised form at around the time when his own town of birth in Ohio, a town almost exclusively peopled by German speakers and overwhelmingly influenced by German culture, changes its name from 'New Berlin' to 'North Canton' - in line with a then growing American antipathy towards all things German. Prior to December 7th 1941, young Jacob seems to have been of the view that, after many shaky starts, his life is now happily on track and on a rewarding, stable and secure route; with his wife Bonnie, whom he adores and a much loved and wished for young son, William. The war that then erupts is an event that, obviously, changes the life of all three of them forever. In particular, the fact that his beloved country of adoption is now at war with the country of his own ancestry and background. Jacob, indeed, takes great comfort in believing that his grievance lies entirely with the Japanese. When, finally, reluctantly, he does enlist in the armed forces he is sustained by this belief.

'An Enemy Like Me' adopts the literary device of a dual time with the bitter sweet memories of his and Bonnie's son, William. The book, indeed, opens, with William's recollections as a four year old; of that confusing time that his father goes away to war. The night before his father's departure the little boy can hear the familiar sound of the voices of his beloved parents as he drifts off to sleep, the normally soothing and comforting voices now raised in anger:

''The soothing sounds of whispers and laughter that always helped him drift off to sleep turned harsh and frightening. His mother was the machine gun he saw the time his parents took him to the picture show downtown......he imagined his father slumping to the floor, dead like the soldiers who plagued his dreams for weeks, convincing his mother to never let him see the news reels again.....then, without warning, his father spoke in a roar of thunder like the summer storms that sent William scampering into his parents' bedroom in the middle of the night.....''

A recollection skilfully evoked. William's own memories of his wartime childhood and of his parents Jacob and Bonnie, all take place in 2016 and after a visit to his father's grave. His recollections are of his life without his father and his time with his mother and his maternal grandparents while Jacob is away at training camp and then, ironically, in the European theatre of War and fighting not the Japanese but the Germans. in short and highly evocative chapters, we see the story of this family evolve and develop through the eyes of the three main protagonists of Jacob, Bonnie and William, thus bringing the period to vivid life through the literal minded eyes of a young boy, a deeply distressed and permanently worried young woman and an uncertain young man who is troubled at the direction that events have taken them. Brown explores the themes of alienation, separation, individual misery and combined happiness superbly well, a young boy's loss of a beloved dog, a woman's nervous breakdown through fear and uncertainty and a young soldier's troubled wartime progress and divided emotions and loyalties through the country of his own ancestry. The plight of Bonnie, for example, now living with her parents once more and working in an aircraft factory, is only too common and one of the strongest features of this book is how readily the individual can relate to this vulnerable trio of very ordinary people:

''What would I do as a single mother with a small child? How could I make ends meet?......Who would hold me in the night when I needed to feel safe and secure? And, of course, the unthinkable thought ''what if Jacob didn't come home?........the idea that he might leave and never return took the air out of her lungs, forcing her to sit down........She couldn't help but cry out at the thought of her simple dreams disintegrating one newsflash at a time......''

Unlike Jacob, Bonnie is born to a highly privileged family, born, as Teri Brown makes the point, 'with a silver spoon in her mouth'. Her father was a highly successful engineer and designer. Based in Detroit, he made his fortune in automobiles. In a family living in a mansion, with servants permanently on call and with a private yacht moored nearby, young Bonnie wanted for nothing until her father lost his fortune in the Great Depression and young Bonnie, now living in severely restrained circumstances, arrives to look for work in Ohio. It is here that the young grocery delivery boy Jacob, impossibly tall, gawky and awkward, sees her, a willowy blonde beauty, and falls desperately in love with her. He wooes her with trips to the Cinema and Dances and Bonnie, for her part, in time falls very much in love with him; the first act of a love affair and a lifelong family alliance. The reader is witness to the early struggles against poverty of this young couple, of the antipathy and selfish dislike of Jacob's widowed mother Elisabet for her, her flair, not to say genius, at design and the display of house furnishings and how this slowly leads them up the ladder of greater income and more comfortable dwelling places through sheer hard work and determination on the part of both of them. And, finally, the dream of a pink house, a boy child and a dog, a space for them to relax and play! The reader is dismayed by their setbacks and rejoices in their minor successes and triumphs; for this is a point that Brown is seemingly anxious to make: Jacob and Bonnie Miller and their child William are ordinary people; ordinary people about to be caught up in extraordinary events not of their making and quite beyond their control and to which they can only react. These people are, perhaps, exactly the type of people who Aaron Copland had in mind when he wrote 'Fanfare for the Common Man'. They are the type of people who never shape events but are obliged, more simply, to react to and deal with them.

As William makes his visit to the grave of his parents he is in a highly reflective mood. When it comes to his memories of them, particularly of his father, he is highly ambivalent and carries a considerable amount of emotional baggage. He resents his post war father's heavy handedness of his son's own aspirations, his scorn of his ambitions and interests and skills. He turns down, for example, a highly promising job with a young and growing company called IBM in order to fulfil a wish of his father's for him to play the part of ''and son'' in a family business. He wonders if his own son Christopher feels estranged from him in the same way that he had often felt estranged from his own father, Jacob:

''William thought back to the father he remembered before the war. He was brave and strong. He was gentle and kind. And while that man occasionally materialised, in reality, the prewar Jacob never fully returned from the war. Upon arriving home, Jacob's carefree laughter was rationed like wartime coffee, and his spontaneous hugs were as rare as sugar. Everything in William's world changed once again in response to the new man he called 'Vati'.''

If Jacob Miller were to return unchanged by his wartime experiences and with his previous view of the world intact then this would have been remarkable. He had spent much of it in anticipation of being pitted against the Japanese, a nation with whom he had nothing in common. To find himself instead in the land of his ancestors both during and immediately after the war dramatically changed, above all else, his view of himself:

''For the last year [whilst in training in Arkansas] , whenever he held his gun to his shoulder and aimed, he always pictured a dirty Jap with his slanted eyes and a language sounding like someone dropping metal scraps into a garbage bin.......but now, when he would be forced to aim his gun at a man who looked like him? spoke in syllables that comforted him to sleep at night as a child?.....This was not what he had signed up to do.....'' He did not voice these very real doubts and fears in his many letters home to Bonnie, short, blithe and encouraging in their tone and nature. ''He wondered if he would make it home alive. He wondered if Bonnie would recognise the man he became. He was doubtful, because as he stood in front of the mirror shaving his beard he couldn't fathom who was staring back at him.''

The reader is presented with a very clear image of three tragic and intensely lonely people, a fraction of the millions affected, with their own very real despairs; a literal minded five year old badly missing his father and his dog, a young woman putting on a brave face and with the threat of being admitted to an institution as a result of the effects of her nervous breakdown and a young man battling both his real physical fears and searching for his own identity; this is the underlying strength of this moving and very readable book. William returns from his visit to his parents' graveside, spends time tinkering with his beloved cars, a favourite means of relaxing, and ponders over his memories of his parents, perhaps wondering, as many of us do when thinking of a now long gone parent of what the answers might have been to questions never asked. Fishing is not a hobby that William relishes in the least bit. He knows, however, that his son Christopher is very fond of it as a pastime. He surprises his wife by telling her he will phone him up and ask him if he would like to go fishing with him. For a variety of reasons, ''An Enemy Like Me'' is a thoroughly admirable book:

''Trust me, true love, when I say I am coming home to you, I shall. I love you with all my heart and soul. If not for you and William there would be no reason to live, but memories of you keep me strong each day.''


“An Enemy Like Me” by Teri M. Brown receives 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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