Review: Expansive Homage to the Greatest Generation
At the center of John E. Nevola's novel The Last Jump is a son's quest to understand the war that so affected his estranged father. But while the son's search is important to moving the story forward, it is a relatively small portion of this expansive homage to the Greatest Generation – the men and women who served their country in WWII either in combat or on the home front in an era when patriotism meant far more than slapping a yellow ribbon magnet on the side of your car.
At the heart of the novel are two American paratroopers, both named John Kilroy. Though the two young men are not related, they become the closest of friends as they endure the rigors of airborne training and, later, combat in Sicily and northern Europe. The novel explores the bonds of such friendship and the promises and obligations they create.
Nevola also examines the contributions made at home by women who gave up their youthful years to build ships, tanks, and planes for the war effort, and African American soldiers who labored behind the lines waiting for their chance to show their mettle in combat. Nevola argues that the contributions made by these men and women cracked open the door that led to greater equality for blacks and women. Certainly, it took several more decades for that door to open wider – and it still needs to swing wider – but it was the actions of the Greatest Generation that gave the door the initial shove.
The research that went into The Last Jump was intricate and detailed. The book brings together the best of such writers as Anton Myer and Herman Wouk, with a good dose of Michael/Jeff Shaara thrown in.
If you are an ardent reader of military history, you will love this novel. If you are a Baby Boomer who never talked to your parents about the war, or of a later generation and would like to understand what your grandparents endured during WWII, you should read this book.