Bright Morning Star

Tom Coffey. Oak Tree Press, $18.95 ISBN 978-1-61009-169-5
In Coffey’s uneven novel, cub reporter Emma Pierce attempts to learn the truth behind an atrocity committed during the Philippine-American War. The story opens in 1902 with Emma waiting at the New York Harbor for a glimpse of her first love, Caleb Johnson. The handsome, thoughtful, caring son of an itinerant minister is now a military prisoner convicted of murdering civilians in the Philippines. The circumstances are murky, and Caleb hasn’t tried to defend himself; still, Emma can’t believe he’s guilty. The two met and fell in love nearly three years earlier, during a Christmas lecture hosted by Emma’s father, the head of the secularist Seneca Institute. The love story has an overworked whiff of Romeo and Juliet, with the young couple separated by families that can’t get along. Emma attends college, then takes up journalism. Caleb joins the Army and is sent to the Philippines to fight against insurrectionists who are determined to prevent American colonization. The most compelling part of the story is how the war severely tests Caleb’s faith, ultimately revealing just what kind of a man he is. That would have been enough to carry this story as a work of historical fiction, but too much of the book is hamstrung by the love story. (BookLife)
Reviewed on: 09/21/2015
Release date: 05/01/2015
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