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Detailed Book Review
   
   
   
The Last of One         
The Last of One
By Stephan Solberg
ISBN: 978-1-929763-46-7
Price: $14.95
Shipping: $4.00
        
Stephan Solberg’s The Last of One is a tale of epic and intimate human conflicts. Covering a span of some ninety years, it’s a story of relationships and love, growing up, and growing old. Two first-person narrators tell the tale; Tom, the young man, and the veteran, Dan. Tom has known Dan all his life, as he grew up down the street from the mysterious Methuselah who worked at the city park. As an adult, Tom cares for Dan through a volunteer elder care program and he begins to discover that “the old walkin’ man” has more secrets than he ever imagined. Thus begins the narrative journey of this centenarian, from falling in love with his teacher, running away to war, meeting Ernest Hemingway, to fighting horrific battles, and even “dying.”

Nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

The Last of One is also available as an ebook on Amazon.com for the Kindle.

        
Book Review Details:
        
Reviewed Appeared In: The Beacher Weekly Newspaper (Michigan City, IN)
Reviewed By: Sally Carpenter
Text Of Review:

"He was just everywhere. You'd see him walking all over town. I'd known him all my life, since as far back as I could remember..."

Everyone called him "Old Man Dan the Walkin' Man." He was the town fixture, working in the town park, maintaining the old war memorial and keeping track of the kids who loved to climb all over the statue. His real name was Dan Marshall, and our narrator is Tom.

Tom is a young man who volunteers for a social services group that helped take care of the home-bound elderly. Dan was one of Tommy's charges. No one knew exactly how old Dan was, guesses range from seventy to ninety.

One day Dan got to telling Tommy about things that happened in the town that Tom knew nothing about; like the time John F. Kennedy came to town or the Chicago Cubs played an exhibition game there. Tom found the old man knowledgeable and interesting to listen to and found himself looking forward to their visits.

A newspaper story one day told of the passing of the last World War I veteran in the state (Illinois) and Dan became thoughtful. He then admitted to Tommy that he was really the last WWI vet, making him 110 days old! With that amazing statement, came a most amazing story.

Dan joined the Marines although he was still sixteen years old. He was big for his age and no one questioned because recruits were sorely needed for the war in Europe. Dan's step by step tale of training in the hot summer at Paris Island, the grueling marching and weapons training is told realistically and simply, as an old man with a load to get off his chest might do. Dan hasn't told his story to anyone before, but he seems to feel safe in telling it to Tom. His story continues...

Finally landing in France, amazed at how the beautiful countryside could suddenly become a smoke-filled field of blood with the screaming of the guns and the dying. Dan quickly learned on his instincts to keep him alive. He is wined and dined by the French people as they liberate villages on their march to Paris, he watches his friends die around him, and he makes friends with a man named Hemingway...

I was very impressed with how Dan told his story to Tommy, slowly and deliberately, with many starts and stops as dictated by an old man's constitution. I felt like I was a fly on the wall talking in Dan's story, absorbing his grief and pain at the retelling, yet wanting him to go on. The ending of Dan's story will grab your heart...and a kleenex.

This is a thoughtful story of the impetuousness of youth, the recklessness of our middle years, and the reflections of old age. I thought that author Solberg had a real feel and understanding of the ravages of war and how one man coped and persevered.

I found The Last of One to be a gem and one story I won't soon forget.

Date Reviewed: October 14, 2010
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