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James Michael Pratt, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-26633-2
Loyalty, romance and mistaken identity lie at the heart of this sentimental WW II drama by Pratt (The Lighthouse Keeper). Teenage twins Norman and Lucian Parker, trainmen in late 1930s Oklahoma, having endured the dual tragedies of the Depression and the death of their mother, fall for the same woman, blonde stunner Mary Jane Harrison. Conservative, sensitive Norman begins to court Mary Jane, but she soon leaves for California. Heartbroken, Norman joins the National Guard and tries to forget her. Meanwhile, rash, volatile Lucien moves to California to attend college. Of course he meets up with Mary Jane and they begin a secret romance. The rift between the brothers deepens when Lucien and Mary Jane wed, but it is clear that Mary Jane suffers regrets. Norman and Lucien achieve an uneasy truce when both are stationed in the Philippines just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Their bond is strengthened during the conflict, but only one brother survives, and the other makes a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, Pratt employs embarrassingly awkward language, tinny descriptions and simplistic characterizations--especially of Mary Jane. The big ""secret,"" painfully obvious from the prologue, is no surprise. The novel is strongest when it focuses on the twins' nightmarish experiences in the South Pacific: Pratt has done his homework on the horrors endured by both Americans and Filipinos during WWII--from malaria to torture by the Japanese--and these scenes have authentic clarity. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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