Book Report: Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War by Bob Greene (2000)

I bought this book for fourteen bucks in paperback at Borders (well, I used a gift card for part of it) because I like Bob Greene’s work. As some of you might recall, I read Bob Greene’s America last year. He’s much better at columns and essays than at full length novels, it would appear based on this single sample.

This book chronicles the aftermath Bob Greene’s father’s death. Greene explores his relationship to his father and seeks a better understanding of the World War II generation as he interviews Paul Tibbets, the man who not only flew the Enola Gay but commanded the military force responsible for putting together the mission. So Greene weaves together the individually compelling stories in what, ultimately, proves to be a less than satisfying mishmash.

Greene wanders between his memories of his father’s last days, his interviews with Tibbets, and the audiotapes that his father made to tell his children his WWII experiences as an infantryman in Italy in the war. Throughout, we get Greene’s earnest voice, sometime plaintive and sometimes naive, discussing the events as they unfold. I’ve complimented Greene’s columns and his collection of columns for their concision and transparent eyeballness, but he cannot sustain it in this longer work. And at the end, Greene gets to meet the two other surviving members of the Enola Gay crew as the three reunite in Branson, Missouri. We get to see they’re older and that most people don’t know who they are, and at the end of the weekend, the book pretty much ends. It doesn’t build to a strong insight or conclusion of any real meat, and although a column doesn’t have to, a book should.

So I’m ultimately disappointed. I look forward to more collections of his columns, if any exist, but have some trepidation regarding his other long works and his novel. But I’ll try at least one, since it’s on my too-read shelves.

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