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Reviewed by Steve Leshin for Readers' Favorite
From The Heartland by J.W. Sloter is a first person narrative of the life of a young man from the Midwest who grows up, goes to college, and joins the Marines during World War II. He is badly wounded in battle. When he returns home, he endures a long recovery period from his injuries plus a difficult transition to civilian life. The story continues as he describes his post-war life choices including marriage, family, a serious of tragedies, personal conflicts and his personal growth through the years up to 2009. I was interested in From The Heartland partly because my father was a World War II veteran. He was in the army, 182nd Infantry Regiment. His unit followed the Marines after the bloody battle on Guadalcanal. Sloter gives a vivid description of his life as a Marine during that period and his time on the Solomon Islands, where my dad was also stationed. Sloter gave me an idea of how my father must have felt as an infantryman, something he rarely would discuss with his sons.
At first I was not sure what to make of this memoir that is not a memoir. As Sloter tells it, From The Heartland is “lightly seasoned with a dash of spice to enhance the natural flavor.” The more I read, the more the life of the author became a must-read. His post-war life as a rising lawyer in his father’s firm, his special relationship with his older brother, Jimmy, his own father and, in later years, his romance with a free spirited woman called Maddie, his subsequent marriage and the raising of his three children in the decades of the 1950s, 1960s and beyond, with all the changes happening in America, kept me curious for more. His own relationship with his son, nicknamed "Jim-too," is moving. There is a twist regarding our narrator at the end of the book that ties together all he lived through. This makes it worthwhile. While the writing style of Jacob “Walt” Sloter is not in the style of say Hemingway, it is very readable nonetheless. For a microcosm of life after World War II, I recommend From The Heartland.