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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
A Debt of War by Michael Ringering is a World War II novel quite unlike any war book I have ever read. When Paul Bacca and his siblings attend their mother’s funeral in 2009, Paul is shocked and surprised to be approached by an elderly veteran in uniform who hands him a special gift from Paul’s mother, an unpublished novel about World War II written by a previously acclaimed poet. As an editor of a publishing company, Paul is well aware that this poet has never put forward a novel for consideration and is duly excited to read it but also confused about how it found its way into his late mother’s possession. Sitting down to read that evening, Paul is soon transported to the battlefields of Europe in the final months of the European theater of war, where the most intriguing and surprising of friendships was to develop between a German soldier, branded a traitor, and a young farmer boy from Pennsylvania. What ensues on those bloody fields so far from home will astound Paul and excite him for the possibilities for publication of this amazing manuscript. Paul is transported to the most unlikely alliances between a group of American GIs and their unexpected German comrade. When debts of honor are earned in wartime, the extent to which soldiers will go to fulfill the obligations of those debts tests the bonds of friendship, patriotism, bravery, and, at times, even credibility.
I’ve read several war books of one stripe or another recently, but I can honestly say that none has touched me to the very core of my being as A Debt of War did. Author Michael Ringering has somehow taken an almost impossible scenario to behold and shaped it into a believable and powerful narrative. The story is utterly compelling, and the characters jump off the page and attach themselves to the reader’s psyche. For the poor German soldier Jakob, tormented by his love for his family and yet torn apart by his father’s blind fanaticism to Hitler and the Nazi rhetoric, the war was an absolute struggle for someone who could only be described as a gentle soul. The correlation in nature and beliefs between Jakob and GI O’Dell was startling and powerful.
The story is full of action, excitement, and battles, which will keep all the adrenaline junkies extremely happy. Yet, it is beautifully blended with deep and powerful emotions that will pull at any reader’s heartstrings. Like Paul, while reading this story, I began to question if this was fiction or reality. The setting, the background, the equipment, everything about this story rang true, and one was almost left hoping, in some way, there was a grain of truth to this absorbing story. I doubt I’ve been this impressed with any author’s work the first time I’ve read them, and I will definitely be seeking out more of his portfolio. If this story is anything to go by, he is an original-thinking author with wonderful narrative ability. I loved this book, and I can highly recommend it.