The Last Thing You Surrender by Leonard Pitts Jr.

by belinda
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Good Reads Summary

Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and bestselling novelist Leonard Pitts Jr.’s new historical page-turner is a great American tale of race and war, following three characters from the Jim Crow South as they face the enormous changes World War II triggers in the United States.

An affluent white marine survives Pearl Harbor at the cost of a black messman’s life only to be sent, wracked with guilt, to the Pacific and taken prisoner by the Japanese. A young black woman, widowed by the same events at Pearl, finds unexpected opportunity and a dangerous friendship in a segregated Alabama shipyard feeding the war. A black man, who as a child saw his parents brutally lynched, is conscripted to fight Nazis for a country he despises and discovers a new kind of patriotism in the all-black 761st Tank Battalion.

Set against a backdrop of violent racial conflict on both the front lines and the home front, The Last Thing You Surrender explores the powerful moral struggles of individuals from a divided nation. What does it take to change someone’s mind about race? What does it take for a country and a people to move forward, transformed?

My Thoughts (spoiler-free)

The story followed three characters that are brought together by Pearl Harbor. A white marine named George who gets saved by a black man during Pearl Harbor. The black woman named Thelma who is the widow of the man that saved him. She is works in shipyard in Alabama and lives with her grandfather and her brother, Luther, who is the final main character. Luther is wrestling with his “demons” from experiences as a black man in the Jim Crow south. He has experienced lynching first-hand of family members that has deeply affected him and the ways that he sees and deals with the world. Particularly with the white world and puts him in a way that he is not open to change.

The book explores race relations, the war, and Jim Crow and how it affects the people in this story as well as what things open us and close us to change. You watch Thelma experience segregation at the shipyard and racial tensions and abuse. You watch George as he goes off to war and continues to question the way things are. You see Luther gets conscripted and watch how the war experiences open him up for the first time.

I fear I will spoil the book if I say more but I will say that even though the book will break your heart, it is so beautifully written and he has an amazing way of effortless encompassing so many issues into one book that it is a must-read. You won’t regret it.

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