Monday, March 19, 2012

The Phony Marine by Jim Lehrer

Hugo Marder is not a Marine, though he considered volunteering when he was a Michigan college student. Now he is a pudgy 50-something salesman of fine men's ware. He is divorced and living in Washington DC; maybe "existing" is a more accurate description of Hugo's life than "living". His favorite leisure activity is surfing eBay for collectible cuff links. Hugo finds a military medal for sale and buys it impulsively, never planning to wear it. The Silver Star is the third highest award, coming after the Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross. It is awarded for heroism in combat.

The medal acts like a magic charm, altering Hugo's life forever. He cannot resist wearing the Silver Star, even though he is well aware that he is not entitled. He makes himself over to be worthy of wearing the medal. Hugo studies Marine bearing and gait, and he becomes physically fit. He learns the history of the battle in which the real Marine won the medal. When he encounters his ex-wife who knows Hugo was never a Marine, he deals with her in the guise of his new persona.

It is a testament to Lehrer's writing ability that he makes Hugo a sympathetic character. I should hate Hugo for the fraud he is perpetuating; an unhappily ever after seems inevitable. Another strong point for Lehrer is his pacing. This book is not a thriller along the lines of Michael Crichton or James Patterson, but I was unable to quit reading until I learned the outcome. The combination of character, story and topic made this book irresistible to me.

Author Jim Lehrer is NOT a phony Marine. He served as an infantry officer in the 1950s. As the daughter/wife/mother-in-law/niece/cousin of Marines, my biggest gripe is that his novel spells Marine with a small "m". I was taught to capitalize Marine as a sign of respect and honor. Lehrer gets everything else right, and I liked this book enough that I will read others of his 20 fiction titles.

You can follow these links to see The Phony Marine or Lehrer's other books in our catalog.

~ Michelle, Adult Services

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