three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
20-Jan-Feb-2006
By: 
Scott Turow
user_rating: 
0

A-OrdinaryHeroesWhen divorced, middle-aged crime reporter Stewart Dubinsky discovers letters his late father wrote during World War II, he’s compelled to probe his father’s past. Among the letters, including love notes written to a mysterious former fiancée, Stewart finds a manuscript that reveals his father’s scandalous court-martial and imprisonment for helping a renegade American intelligence officer, Robert Martin, escape. As Stewart uncovers his father’s entanglements with Martin and a love triangle involving Gita Lodz, he discovers the truth about his family’s secret history—and the compromising, horrifying nature of war.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 384 pages. $25. ISBN: 0374184216

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"The war scenes are remarkable for their newness, almost impossible, I would have thought, in a novel about perhaps the most written-about war ever fought. … Gita is an absolutely marvelous creation, someone who (and I don’t say this lightly) deserves to enter literature’s list of immortals." Nan Goldberg

Newsday 4 of 5 Stars
"Turow’s concern with identity and illusion, motives and mistrust, conscience and desire, ignites his stirring seventh novel as well. … A first-rate mystery is meant to keep you guessing, but the enigmas and sorrows at the heart of Ordinary Heroes do more: They keep you thinking and feeling." Kerry Fried

Chicago Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"The writing is polished, almost too polished. It lacks a hard edge, a passion, the finely wrought sentences striking the mind as the lulling strains of smooth jazz strike the ear." Philip Caputo

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"Ordinary Heroes illustrates something fundamental about Mr. Turow’s work: storytelling drives his fiction even when stylistic clumsiness threatens to bog it down. This time, leaving his well-defined courtroom turf to take on wartime experiences that have been written about so exhaustively, he has less narrative verve at his disposal." Janet Maslin

San Diego Union-Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"The question is, has he managed to hang on to his primary virtues while complementing them with others? Ultimately no, although Turow at his less-than-best still trumps pretty much any million-selling author you can name. … Beyond knowing that he has a good yarn to tell, Turow doesn’t seem to know exactly where he wants to direct the reader’s attention, where he wants to place his biggest bets." Scott Leibs

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"In the end, Ordinary Heroes, like all of Turow’s fiction, derives its considerable power from its depiction of a lawyer’s disillusionment, his understanding of the dark ironies that await anyone with an absolute belief in the rule of justice. … This inner drama, rather than the battle scenes and action sequences, makes the novel worth reading, leaving the reader with a lasting sense of the corrosive effects of war on even the most civilized souls." Stephen Amidon

Seattle Times 1 of 5 Stars
"The entire misadventure mercifully slouches to a halt with an effort to reveal a plot twist at the end, which is used to justify the ponderous development of the various relationships. … For a writer of such first-rate potential, this is a disappointing and maudlin effort. Like Elvis in Vegas, he’s done better work elsewhere." Kevin J. Hamilton

Critical Summary

Retired reporter Stewart Dubinsky last made an appearance in Presumed Innocent (1987). Here, the self-lacerating Dubinsky delves deep into his family’s wartime history—one loosely based on Turow’s father’s experiences. For critics, the question is whether a legal-thriller writer can succeed in another genre—and the answers vary. Out of the courtroom, Turow remains an effective storyteller whose characters (Gita in particular) and details of war create immediacy and intrigue. However, his usual spark seems to be missing. A few critics faulted the novel for introducing too much history, too many mysteries, and too many themes—from war to love to family secrets. In the end, the personal dramas that characterize Turow’s best works carry this story-within-a-story, too.