Sunday, April 24, 2011

Week 61: Where the Birds Never Sing by Jack Sacco

When I picked up this book, it was for two reasons - one, because it was a memoir about WWII - and two, because the gaze of the soldier on the front page was so intense. Plus, he looks like my friend Shari's brother, even though she says he doesn't.

The story of Joe Sacco, an American soldier in the 92nd Signal Battalion, is told quite beautifully by his son, Jack Sacco. The story winds its way from the draft through basic training, and into Europe. The 92nd Signal Battalion was one of the first platoons to reach the concentration camp Dachau. Joe, who had carried a camera with him, took many pictures during the liberation.

This memoir was great, to be sure, but perhaps the most poignant feature was the change in Joe's physical appearance - especially his eyes - throughout the duration of his wartime experience. It's like those photos of Abraham Lincoln before and after the Civil War.

Some of the more memorable parts of the book for me involved the technical responsibilities and tasks of the battalion. They ran telephone lines all over Europe to keep the lines of communication open. Also, since their battalion was on the front lines, they had regular contact with General Patton, which surprised me. I liked seeing this different side of Patton. The interaction between the soldiers was classic - and I learned a few old jokes along the way!

This was an easy book to read, but it had the right amount of momentum to keep me interested. I'd definitely recommend it.

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