Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Caleb lives in a world at war. War news is on everyone’s mind, and Caleb’s older brother, Randall, is likely to be sent overseas. The presence of German POWs in Caleb’s rural Georgia community is a constant reminder of what’s happening in Europe. Locked in a power struggle with his domineering father and fighting to keep both his temper and his self-respect in dealing with whites, Caleb finds his loyalties shifting and his certainties slipping away. This coming-of-age story, set in a time before the civil rights movement emerged, traces one young man’s growing commitment to justice and to the courage needed to protect it.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Imprint: Clarion Books
Pub Date: 10/24/2011

Description:  Caleb's Wars  is a historical novel set in 1944, during World War II. David Dudley gives just the right amount of description to make the setting clear without overloading the reader.  Many of the details are hidden in the narrative so I did not feel burdened or distracted.  By the end of the first chapter, I felt like I was in rural Georgia with the heat and dust standing outside the Dixie Bell Cafe.  (Score: 8/10)

Narrative:  David Dudley chose first person to tell Caleb's story.  This POV lead to a sharing of intimate thoughts and feelings of the main character.  The narrative used was well organized, concise and interesting.  A lot of detail was given in a way that helped move the story along.  I really enjoyed seeing the world through Caleb's eyes.  It was often I found myself lost to the emotion of Caleb's Wars. (Score: 8/10)

Dialogue:  Okay, here is an area where Caleb's Wars is very unique.  David Dudley uses dialects, rural southern and African American in a most talented way.  It's part of the story and adds to the authenticity of the characters.  What I found most interesting, was the way David Dudley shows the reader how the African Americans were forced to speak in a degrading way, even when they knew proper grammar.  So, if you want an example of how to properly use dialect in a novel, Caleb's Wars is one I would recommend. (Score: 8/10)

Characterization:  It's interesting to note that there's quite a few characters in Caleb's Wars.  Many of them are minor or temporary. But to me, that adds to the realism of fiction.  In real life, we have people who only serve one purpose. Many times as I've revised my novel, I've been encouraged to cut out ones that don't accomplish multiple tasks.  But in Caleb's Wars, it works really well to establish timeline and sense of place.  (Score: 8/10)

Resolution:  I was pleasantly surprised and mildly disappointed in the ending of Caleb's Wars.  I think I expected the usual wrap it up and neatly packaged ending.  And that's a thought I can not explain.  Maybe because it was a historical novel or possibly because I was enjoying it so much, but the book just sort of ended. OR MAYBE...I felt unsatisfied because I couldn't believe those final few scenes could be the truth.  But it is.  And I have a pretty strong feeling that is exactly how David Dudley wants us to feel.  After all, it's how Caleb felt. (Score: 7/10)

As a reader, I enjoyed Caleb's Wars.  It's not earth shattering or fast paced, but it's not meant to be.  It's a snapshot glimpse into the life of someone else during a different time.  And it's clear David Dudley is not only familiar but passionate about his characters.  I think this book is a great addition to any library of history teachers, especially in middle or high schools. I'd recommend Caleb's Wars to lovers of history, haters of discrimination and supporters of standing up for your rights.  I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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