Synopses & Reviews
Anthony Swofford follows his international bestseller, Jarhead
, with an unforgettable first novel a powerful story about a youth spent on a U.S. air base in Japan and the gritty neon streets just outside it, where the Japanese underworld lurks and a rebellious young girl finds herself in great danger.
Anthony Swofford took the literary world by storm with Jarhead, his electrifying memoir of serving as a U.S. marine in the Gulf War. Celebrated for its visceral candor and profane lyricism, Jarhead stands today as a landmark contribution to the literature of war.
Now, in his bold fiction debut, Swofford demonstrates the same audacious vision as he plumbs the legacies of war, the wish for redemption, and the danger of love.
Seventeen-year-old Severin Boxx lives on Yokota, an enormous American air force base on the outskirts of Tokyo that is home to fourteen thousand U.S. soldiers and a large contingent of long-range nuclear bombers. Just outside the base lies the busy Haijima rail station. Exit A is one of the many doorways into this place of movement, anonymity, and sudden disappearance. Much of the novel's action transpires in the netherworld around Exit A, a mad neon landscape of noodle shops, strip clubs, sushi joints, pawnshops, whorehouses, sake fountains, military surplus stores, tattoo parlors, hash bars, comic book stores, pachinko parlors, fish shops, and alleys the alleys that all lead somewhere, usually down.
It's here, not long before the Gulf War begins, that we first meet Severin, an earnest, muscular high-school-football star and son of a base colonel. Like most of the other young American men on the air base, Severin is mad for Virginia Kindwall, the base general's daughter, who is a hafu half American and half Japanese. Beautiful, smart, and utterly defiant of a father who wields godlike military power, Virginia has become a petty criminal in the Japanese underground.
Severin is soon caught up in Virginia's world. But theirs is not a typical high school romance; they fall into trouble way over their heads and are quickly subjected to the enormous, unforgiving tensions between America and Japan a relationship still informed by the long shadows of World War II and America's use of the atomic bomb.
Years later, Severin and Virginia remain lost to each other until an emotionally frayed, thirtysomething Severin embarks on a quest to find Virginia and, in so doing, the part of himself taken from him when his boyhood abruptly ended.
Like Jarhead before it, Anthony Swofford's Exit A is darkly irreverent, frankly erotic, and more than a little wicked, a tale told in a brooding, pained voice filled with the simple human fury of being alive. It is, in sum, a first novel in full. Building inexorably toward a climax that is at once suspenseful and emotionally overwhelming, Anthony Swofford's fiction debut is a triumph.
"Bestseller Swofford explores teenage love in his uneven first novel, which opens in 1989 at Yokata Air Base outside Tokyo (the title comes from the name of a nearby train stop). Severin Boxx, a 17-year-old military brat, plays football and pines for Virginia Sachiko Kindwall, the half-Japanese daughter of the American base commander, who's also his coach. Virginia's involvement in some not-so-petty crime (her heroine is Faye Dunaway of Bonnie and Clyde) leads her into serious trouble, which separates the young lovers seemingly forever. Swofford, as one might expect from the author of the acclaimed Jarhead (2003), his memoir of being a Marine sniper in the first Gulf War, clearly knows the U.S. military culture, though some readers may find his view of it overly harsh. He also does a good job of depicting the strange mlange where Japanese and American cultures coexist, but he's less convincing in his portrayal of Boxx's adult life (and doomed marriage) in San Francisco, while the ending is much too neat to be truly compelling. 7-city author tour. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A well-rounded tale, even if it ends on a sentimental note that will surprise readers of Swofford's tough-as-nails memoir." Kirkus Reviews
"The book starts off strongly....Ultimately, Swofford is much better at rendering unfamiliar worlds (military bases, criminal life) than familiar ones (college campuses, relationships)." Booklist
"Far from falling short of devotees' high expectations, Exit A ultimately proves that there is a lot to love about Swofford's first expedition into the realm of fiction." San Francisco Chronicle
"Swofford has a great eye for detail and cultural kitsch, which imbues Exit A with a lot of incidental humor despite its weightier themes." Los Angeles Times
"Part coming-of-age tale, part love story, part exploration of family life on a military base, the book is absorbing." Seattle Times
Swofford follows up his bestselling Jarhead with an unforgettable first novel a compelling story about the legacy of a youth spent inside the stark confines of a U.S. Military base in Japan and the profane, neon netherworld just outside it, where the Japanese underworld lurks.
Anthony Swofford follows his international best-seller Jarhead
with an unforgettable first novel -- a powerful story about a youth spent on a U.S. air base in Japan and the gritty neon streets just outside it, where the Japanese underworld lurks and a rebellious young girl finds herself in great danger........
Seventeen-year-old Severin Boxx, an earnest, muscular high-school-football star, lives on an American air force base on the outskirts of Tokyo. Severin is mad for Virginia Kindwall, the base general's daughter, who is a hafu -- half American and half Japanese. Beautiful, smart, and utterly defiant of her father, Virginia has become a petty criminal in the Japanese underground.
Severin is soon caught up in Virginia's world, and together they drift through the mad neon landscape outside the walls of the base, near the busy Haijima rail station, a place of movement, anonymity, and sudden disappearance. Exit A is one of its many shadowy doorways. Severin and Virginia fall into trouble way over their heads and are soon subjected to the enormous, unforgiving tensions between America and Japan. Years later, Severin and Virginia remain lost to each other, until an emotionally frayed, thirty- something Severin embarks on a quest to find Virginia -- and the part of himself taken from him when his boyhood abruptly ended.
Darkly irreverent, frankly erotic, at once suspenseful and emotionally overwhelming, Swofford's Exit A builds inexorably toward a climax as it audaciously plumbs the legacies of war, the wish for redemption, and the danger of love..........
About the Author
Anthony Swofford, a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award for Jarhead. He lives in New York City.