A child’s life is impacted not just by the mother, but by a strong father figure as well. It’s often up to the father, dad, to be the bad guy. He’s the one responsible to put down the rules, hold the kids accountable, and do all he can to raise good kids. He won’t always look for recognition as a child grows up and isn’t bothered when he sees his child say, “Hi Mom”, on TV. A dad sees that as a reward, that he did his job right and raised a smart, respectful, and great kid.
It’s a main reason the book, Dear Dad by author John Hazen, caught my attention. The book’s description makes it seem like a great science fiction tale as there is time travel. The book also has elements of general fiction in the way the book was written. Dear Dad to me was more than both of those aspects. This to me was a book that really told the importance of a father and son bond that would traverse the boys life, and time.
The book starts with a very ominous letter with John Foster writing to his father that he had a “close one” and almost died. The letter is from 1969 and as you turn the page you find yourself back in time when John’s dad is telling a story. John’s father is a decorated World War II soldier who survived the battle of the bulge and as the book opens we read that story. We learn how his dad was able to take out a machine gun crew saving the lives of others.
The book takes the reader into what I considered a normal boys life as he grew up to become a man. We read on how John grows up with his family in a very small town of Fairbrook, Massachusetts, and attends the local schools. As normally happens a young boy makes a group of great friends and by the time high school comes along often that group begins to break up. This is often due to the social aspects of maturing and in John’s case it was just normal life.
The period of the book, however, is during the turbulent late 1960’s and John is quickly about to turn 18. His dad wants him to run to Canada to dodge the war, as this is not like World War II. Vietnam is sending boys off to a war they don’t know what they are fighting for. It’s brave of Hazen to show this side of John’s dad as even today Vietnam is a tough subject for many. We read what his old friends do to get deferments from fighting, to enlisting, or maybe another branch. John, however, isn’t as lucky as his luck just isn’t there and he eventually gets called to duty.
It’s thus when John gets to Vietnam we get to see the good and the bad of the military during the conflict. The story takes us into John’s eyes as he witnesses the injustice of Vietnam along with race problems that where still strong in the armed forces. However, dark that period in John’s life may be he does makes friends, witness’s horror a horrific act. This act will haunt John’s soul as he thinks what he could have done differently, what if he had tried to help instead of turning his back. It is while he is in Vietnam that an artillery burst sends him flying through the air, and seemingly back in time.
John will find himself embroiled in a long fought war in American History. He will find himself meeting General Grant just before one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The battle is that of Shiloh, which will leave scars not just on the land but on the men who fought there. John will be part of that battle in a unique way and a chance to correct a mistake will come and will be up to him to repeat the past or make things right.
Dear Dad by John Hazen has it’s stories, and the timelines, are tied together by John’s never-ending quest to write to his father. Chapters will open with letters home, or letters from his father. Of course no letters will exchange during the Civil War but John keeps writing. This bond, even through time, is what makes the book so strong. It brings an element of a father and son relationship as the tying factor no matter the time frame. The story has aspects of even unrequited love, but it’s that bond that makes the book so great. This shows that author John Hazen planned this book well as no matter the time frame the characters are strong and believable. Oh and John seems to have “some luck” no matter how old he is.