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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy sophomore debut
Having read and enjoyed Jarhead, I eagerly awaited Swofford's debut novel, Exit A. It's the story of a confused young man and a desperate young woman who eventually reunite in their early thirties. It takes place mostly in the Tokyo area in the late 1980's on an American military base. There is some autobiographical background to the book that Swofford skillfully brings...
Published on October 8, 2007 by Matthew Laney

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bland treatment
I loved the opening two pages of this novel but found it bland after that. Some readers noted that Exit A presents a unique story or covers a unique theme, but Swofford doesn't really take the subject beyond the obvious. We know that there are tensions between our military personnel and the native populations in the countries in which our bases are located (the latest...
Published on March 6, 2008 by M. Drudzinski


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bland treatment, March 6, 2008
By 
This review is from: Exit A: A Novel (Paperback)
I loved the opening two pages of this novel but found it bland after that. Some readers noted that Exit A presents a unique story or covers a unique theme, but Swofford doesn't really take the subject beyond the obvious. We know that there are tensions between our military personnel and the native populations in the countries in which our bases are located (the latest rape case in Japan is just one instance, of course).

Swofford offered me nothing new about military brats or children of mixed parentage. I could have gotten his take from the nightly news.

If you want a more sophisticated treatment of this subject, try a fantastic novel by Don Lee called Country of Origin. It's an outstanding take on children growing up in the in-between world of the military, a thought-provoking examination of bastardization and mixed-race identity and the novel also asks difficult questions about what it means to be an American.
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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Foray into fiction uneven for Jarhead author, January 4, 2007
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This review is from: Exit A: A Novel (Hardcover)
Exit A is Anthony Swofford's newest novel. While Jarhead was the autobiographical account of his Marine adventures in the Gulf War, Exit A is clearly fiction, but with a military theme. Whereas Pat Conroy's military-themed, growing-up novels drip with grit and passion, Exit A is simply... unbelievable. I mean, the commanding general's daughter (Virginia) decides she is a modern day Bonnie Parker (as in "Bonnie and Clyde")? And the captain of the general's high school football team (Severin), after intercepting a pass and running it in for a touchdown (in Japan, of all places), strips down in the end zone in a blaze of "the 'man' doesn't tell ME what to do anymore"?

The story line goes downhill from there. Virginia out of prison (had a daughter in prison), Severin in a loveless, schizophrenic marriage, and the dying general asking Severin to "find my daughter." Sure, boss! I sensed a John Irving wannabe writing style here.

The reality of Jarhead "jarred" me. I admit I had similar expectations for Exit A. But the "jarring" style of writing that formed his autobiography was absent. This is not a requirement for a good yarn, but the characters in Exit A never reach a level of "reality" that makes the story believable, and that IS a requirement. Obviously, Lord of the Rings is not a true story. But didn't you "believe" the reality of the characters? Didn't you believe Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye) could be real? Severin Boxx and the other characters don't pass this test.

Don't forget to catch this line: "His lips were glued shut with dried mucus, and his mouth tasted like a dog's tongue boiling in a pot" (p. 215).

"Virginia knew she was being a bad daughter" (p. 109). These were her thoughts as she mused that she should be supporting her father, who was under pressure when a civilian boy is killed by a military driver. She's thinking this as she is waiting to deliver four kidnapped Japanese to North Koreans (!!!).

Time will tell whether or not Anthony Swofford, as a writer, was a flash in the pan. Exit A was mildly entertaining, but forgettable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy sophomore debut, October 8, 2007
This review is from: Exit A: A Novel (Hardcover)
Having read and enjoyed Jarhead, I eagerly awaited Swofford's debut novel, Exit A. It's the story of a confused young man and a desperate young woman who eventually reunite in their early thirties. It takes place mostly in the Tokyo area in the late 1980's on an American military base. There is some autobiographical background to the book that Swofford skillfully brings to the forefront. His characters have believability. As for the readability of the book, the writing, at times, seems as though it was done on post-it notes and then arranged on a dining room table. But the story kept me engaged and without giving anything away, I was disappointed when it ended-I would have read more. That's what makes it a worthwhile read and it's what makes me eagerly await Swofford's next novel.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Potential is Undermined by Too Many Implausibilities, September 6, 2007
This review is from: Exit A: A Novel (Hardcover)
Having mostly enjoyed Swofford's first book, the hugely successful Gulf War memoir Jarhead, I was curious to see what his fiction would be like. This somewhat uneven debut is written in much the same style prose, and does an equally good job taking the reader into a world they probably don't know firsthand. In Jarhead, Swofford himself was our guide to the first Gulf War, while here teenage Severin Boxx is our all-American guide to life on an American military base in Tokyo.

The first section is set on and around Yokata Air Base circa 1989, and is very effective at capturing the uneasy mix of American and Japanese culture. The base commandant's half-Japanese daughter Virginia is the living embodiment of this cross-cultural tension. Somewhat predictably, she's a loose cannon -- a crackling vortex of cliched teenage rebellion with a bizarre fascination with Faye Dunnaway's Bonnie from the 1972 film Bonnie and Clyde. As it happens, her father is also the high school football coach, and linebacker Severin's loyalties are torn between his coach and Virginia, whom he has a crush on. Swofford resolves this tension in a fairly over-the-top scene at a football game, which segues into a wholly ridiculous subplot involving a Japanese hood and kidnappings engineered by North Korean intelligence.

The curtain drops, and then raises some fifteen years later. Severin is now in his early 30s, living a very comfortable life in San Francisco with his moneyed professor of psychology wife. Although the plain-thinking teenager has grown up to earn a doctorate in French somethingorother, he's turned his back on academia and works as a groundskeeper at his wife's school. Although this section occasionally skips back over to Japan, where we learn what happened to Virginia, the bulk concerns Severin's clearly doomed marriage. As in the first part, this plays out in a rather unbelievable manner, and there's a distinctly artificial feeling, culminating in a bizarre "gotcha" scene.

The final third of the book is set in motion by a mysterious message Severin receives from his old coach. It seems he wants to hire Severin to track Virginia down and bring her to Vietnam (where he has retired) before he dies. This sends Severin to Vietnam and then Japan to confront all of themes the book has built up: facing one's past mistakes, reconciliation, first love, forgiveness, and so forth. Again, there is an element of implausibility to it all, and a rather convenient film festival plays a significant role.

Despite the various implausibilities and problems, the book is not without its charm. Swofford's prose is a pleasure to read, and in Severin, he skillfully captures a certain type of American male. The ending is surprisingly conventional and perhaps reveals Swofford's inner sentimental self. However, the central characters are all flawed and unlikable enough that the reader may not feel they deserve such a soft touch.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Take Your Place, Anthony Swofford, July 10, 2009
By 
Jonathan Posner (LONDON, England United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Exit A: A Novel (Paperback)
Yes, take your place amongst America's very finest writers for this is as good as it gets. There is something exhilarating about being so in thrall to a writer's skill at plot and characterisation; it really is breathtaking.

The story of Severin Boxx and Virginia Kindwall, as well as being one of the utmost complexity, is so dripping in the atmosphere of time and place that it has a virtually cinematic reach. With it's piercingly authentic Far Eastern backdrop it's almost impossible not to conjure up 'Lost in Translation', or even vague recollections of the military personality from both 'Apocalypse Now' and 'Mash'. And General Kindwall, Virginia's father, gradually becomes more real than people you actually know. Now, also, I understand how it really might be possible to go from hatred to compassion to redemption in only one lifetime.

And then just look at Swofford's complete mastery of storyline, swooping and swerving through time, utterly assured whether covering two weeks over fifty pages or fifteen years over a hundred. This is a ride you really want to go on and neither do you want it to end because you're never sure how it's going to get you to your destination. But you always feel safe in this writer's hands, a bit like how it must be to be driven across a big city at breakneck speed, but by a Formula One driver.

I can think of only four other novels of recent times that can sit with 'Exit A' at this exalted top table: Anthony Doerr's 'About Grace'; George Hagen's 'The Laments'; Chang-Rae Lee's 'Aloft' and A.M. Homes's 'This Book Will Save Your Life'. But the truth is, if I never again read a book as good as this one I don't think I'll really mind.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Story You Haven't Read, June 4, 2007
This review is from: Exit A: A Novel (Hardcover)
If you're looking for a spoiled rich kid's story you've come to the wrong place. There is no Holocaust tie-in, no sex abuse, no prep schools and no shrinks.

This is a novel about the ordinary Americans who fight our wars abroad. I give Swofford top marks in his depiction of the female psyche, in his characterization of Virginia, the "hafu" daughter of an American base general and his late Japanese wife. I identified with both protagonists -- the frustrated female would-be juvenile delinquent, and Severin, the idealistic squeaky clean football player who quite understandably falls in her thrall. It took me back thirty years to when I was these kids' age -- it's no small feat to write about teenagers as they really think and behave at the time -- there is no sense of the wise adult overlaying their thoughts and actions.

Like another reviewer, I've thus far failed to read Jarhead, as I avoid all super-hyped blockbusters till the dust settles out and I can read them for themselves,and not through a lense of envy or hero worship. So I can honestly recommend this book on its own merits, and credit it for breaking many of the tired cliches of modern fiction.

This freshman effort was, if anything, underhyped when it came out this winter, which is odd, because its subject matter -- American families whose livelihoods,identities and souls belong to the military -- is extremely topical. It's an important book for now, and I'd venture, forever.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Episode of "Touched by an Angel", June 2, 2007
This review is from: Exit A: A Novel (Hardcover)
I was disappointed with this novel. After coming close to giving up on it twice, I stuck it out, but was not rewarded in the end.

I have not read Jarhead, by the way.

At first I was excited about where this book would take me- life on Yakota air force base and its environs, dabblings in the Tokyo underworld, family life on an American military base, etc. (all things that I know little about), but the novel completely under delivered.

Not one topic (and there are many and they are far-ranging from combative underage prostitutes to affairs with dysfunctional college students in San Francisco to Bonnie and Clyde fanatics) is explored in depth. The whole thing left me feeling like I had watched an hour long episode of Touched by an Angel or something as cursory and diluted like it (with the correct, if hastily wrapped up, ending).

The story is relatively simple and predictable. It did not challenge me in any way. The choices the characters make are silly and seem very unbelievable.

Normally, I am not overly critical of any novel because, to me novels are pure entertainment, but this did more to annoy than entertain.

Also, Swofford's writing style is not great, I could probably write more flowing and descriptive prose if I tried (and that's not saying much).

I would not recommend reading this novel.
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2.0 out of 5 stars This book is fair, June 25, 2007
This review is from: Exit A: A Novel (Hardcover)
The Virginia character is not likable, so I did not really care about her. I agree with another review that the believability of a story line is important. I think it would be highly unlikely that Severin would completely abandon his team on the football field. I think too much time was spent on Severin's modern day relationship with the his wife. If he was so in love with his wife, why would he have slept the other girl & then with Virginia at the end.

There was no resolution with Severin & his wife, so why even waste "x" amount of pages on a storyline -that would never be resolved. And the ending of the book was too neatly resolved. If a daughter & father had that much pain, resentment, hate, disgust, etc, I don't think everything would be resolved so easily. Many times an author leaves the reader unsatified because they rush or try to end the book.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Uneven, unneccessary first fictional outing, April 28, 2007
By 
This review is from: Exit A: A Novel (Hardcover)
I found reading this book frustrating to read--all of the elements for an engaging novel were there, yet overall the catalyst, the spark was missing. Swofford presents a series of connected events, and the events seem to be going somewhere, but then....they don't. I kept waiting for The Story to start; a few times I thought I had it, and then I turned the last page and the book was done. I thought the same thing about Jarhead. That was understandable, as it was a true life account (should have been an Army Ranger sniper, Tony, guess we had all the fun) but with a fictional book like Exit A, he should have let his imagination run free. Still, Swofford has clear, succinct writing, and once he decides to cut loose, he should produce some memorable writing.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Get a grip - it's a good story!, June 2, 2011
This review is from: Exit A: A Novel (Hardcover)
I chose this title to read with my book group for this month. Left it to the last minute to read and so had to read it in one day and part of one evening. I began to read thinking that I knew exactly where this story was going....and then I was proved completely wrong. I LIKE THAT! I didn't analyse the believability of the story too much as I read, which I think helped, but I loved the book, was swept up in the story and cried at the end. I can't wait to hear what score the group gives Exit A tonight.
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Exit A: A Novel
Exit A: A Novel by Anthony Swofford (Paperback - February 19, 2008)
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