Wars bring strangers together then tears them apart but the love and friendships created endures through the years. Tom Ballard a young Marine had been fighting for his life in Vietnam less than twenty-four hours ago. Now he was on a plane escorting the body of his best friend home. Kate Newhouse had run away from her past to the mean streets of Los Angeles and Hollywood. She had survived and clawed her way up the first few rungs of the ladder to success. Thanks to the man who had discovered her Jack Reynolds a World War II Marine now writer. On the long flight home Tom and Kate find themselves drawn together. They spend Tom's emergency leave at Jack's beach house amidst the turmoil of Vietnam and the Sixties. Then they are torn apart by the war only to meet again decades later. Their mutual friendship with Jack is their only connection through the years. Three lives separated by a generation yet linked by their shared experiences form bonds that last a lifetime. Tides of War is a story of love, friendship, sacrifice and honor. If you are a fan Nicholas Sparks then you will love this story.
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I have to admit, having come of age during the Vietnam War, the subject matter of a Marine returning from Nam is what attracted me to this book. Frankly, I had no clue that it was listed under the “romance” category. Yes, there is an underlying story of romance throughout the entire book, but the book is more about the lifelong struggles of 2 men returning from horrific war experiences and how it impacts their female relationships along the way. Although the story spans 30-years in the lives of Tom and Kate, the vast majority of it focuses on a few weeks in 1968 followed by their accidental reuniting in the early 90s and the rebirth of their love for each other and their mutual fiend Jack, the WWII vet that served as their father figure throughout their lives; both while they were together and apart.
I would venture to say that this is one of the most powerful and emotion-filled books of this genre that I have ever read or listened to. The simple, yet so true to life experiences of all the characters in this story simply jumped out at me. Things in this book rang so very true; the way the guys behaved, the way they depended on each other, how close they were, how emotionally crippled they became, and how death (and living in the shadow of it) impacted them. Throw into that mix the love of and for a woman can bring out the best and worst in those emotions. I am not easily brought to tears, but this book hit so close to home that I did cry in a couple of spots; even to the point of stopping the book, particularly during the cemetery scene in chapter 57.
The neat thing about this book (over 12hrs) was a few times it seemed as though the relationship story was coming to a close, with still hours left to go, it took a twist that made it all the more interesting and pulled me right back in. The author did a fantastic job of weaving profound sadness, untold happiness, humor, anger, fear, loss, and so many other human emotions and experiences together that one would be hard-pressed to not feel as though they were part of the story. If you grew up in the 60s this is part of your story; we all know some, if not all, of these characters. Some of us WERE (maybe still are) these characters.
As for the performance; I have mixed thoughts on it. I almost stopped listening within the first 15-minutes because I found the narrator’s (Thomas Block) voice difficult to listen to; dare I say it was almost grating. Although he kind of grew on me as the book progressed, there were still parts where he tried to take on the voice of a female character and it just didn’t work, in my humble opinion. Regardless, he did read with a ton of inflection and some parts worked brilliantly. That being said, I gave the performance 5-stars for a specific reason; the haunting musical interludes at key points in the story. As a word of advice, when the music begins, stop everything else you are doing and listen carefully to the voice-overs during those interludes; the intimacy of those moments separates this listen from many (all?) others.
In short; I think it will be very difficult for me to find another book to listen to that will impact me the way this book did. It was fantastic, all around. Although I received this book for free via AudioBook Boom in return for an unbiased review, I would highly recommend spending a credit (or even purchasing) this book. Worth every penny and minute you’ll invest in it.
Tom is the protagonist, but Jack is the hidden hero.
Have you listened to any of Thomas Block’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Yes, and Thomas Block's work is consistently well spoken.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
The war that follows us home.
Any additional comments?
The Tides of War moved me with its emotional impact many times throughout the story. I grew up during the Vietnam War and this book is an excellent look back at that difficult era told from those who went, and those who mostly saw the war on TV.