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The Coldest Nightby Robert Olmstead
Synopses & Reviews
Henry Childs is just seventeen when he falls into a love affair so intense it nearly consumes him. But when young Mercy’s disapproving father threatens Henry’s life, Henry runs as far as he can—to the other side of the world.
The time is 1950, and the Korean War hangs in the balance. Descended from a long line of soldiers, Henry enlists in the marines and arrives in Korea on the eve of the brutal seventeen-day battle of the Chosin Reservoir—the turning point of the war—completely unprepared for the forbidding Korean landscape and the unimaginable circumstances of a war well beyond the scope of anything his ancestors ever faced. But the challenges he meets upon his return home, scarred and haunted, are greater by far.
Robert Olmstead’s riveting new novel is not only a passionate story of love and war, it is a timeless story of soldiers coming home to a country with little regard for, and even less knowledge of, what they’ve confronted. Through his hero, Olmstead reveals an unspoken truth about combat: that for many men, the experience of war is the most enlivening, electric, and extraordinary experience of their lives.
"Olmstead's (Far Bright Star) elegiac, gritty coming-of-age novel is presented in three dramatic sections: Part I finds 17-year-old Henry Childs living with his mother, a nurse, in Appalachia, W.Va., during the spring of 1950. His father largely absent, Henry excels at baseball and grooms horses. He falls in love with the fanciful Mercy, the older daughter of a dictatorial judge, and the two elope to New Orleans, where he works as a janitor until Mercy's vindictive brother arrives to take her back. Part II begins with the heartbroken Henry enlisting as a Marine 'hunter,' armed with the fierce Browning Automatic, and dispatched to Korea, where he participates in the savage and decisive Chosin Reservoir campaign in frozen northeastern Korea. Snippets of male banter help to leaven the hellish brutality endured by Henry and fellow sniper pal Lew, a veteran of WWII. One year later, Part III opens with the shell-shocked Henry, only a bit older but significantly transformed, returning home to W. Va. up the Kanawha River, where the pain of his mounting personal losses threatens to overwhelm his sanity. Despite the narrative's darkening vision ('The Lord is a man of war,' says Henry), enough redemption rescues Olmstead's powerful, desolate, and well-crafted novel from becoming oppressively bleak." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Henry Childs is just seventeen when he falls into a love affair so intense it nearly destroys him. To escape the wrath of the young girl's father, Henry joins the Marines, arriving in Korea on the eve of the brutal battle of the Chosin Reservoir--the defining moment of the Korean War. There he confronts an enemy force far beyond the scope of his imagining, but the challenges he meets upon his return home, scarred and haunted, are greater by far.
About the Author
Robert Olmstead is the author of five previous books and is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and an NEA grant. He lives in Ohio, where he is a professor at Ohio Wesleyan University.
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