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The Eleventh Man Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (October 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151012431
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151012435
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #910,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the solid latest from veteran novelist Doig (The Whistling Season), 11 starters of a close-knit Montana college championship football team enlist as the U.S. hits the thick of WWII and are capriciously flung around the globe in various branches of the service. Ben Reinking, initially slated for pilot training, is jerked from his plane and more or less forced to become a war correspondent for the semisecret Threshold Press War Project, a propaganda arm of the combined armed forces. His orders: to travel the world, visiting and writing profiles on each of his heroic teammates. The fetching Women's Airforce Service Pilot who flies him around, Cass Standish, is married to a soldier fighting in the South Pacific, which leads to anguish for them both (think Alan Ladd and Loretta Young). Meanwhile, Ben's former teammates are being killed one by one, often, it seems, being deliberately put into harm's way. Doig adroitly keeps Ben on track, offering an old-fashioned greatest generation story, well told. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics agree that Ivan Doig's old-fashioned storytelling tilts more toward sentimentality and occasional cliche here than in previous works. Doig, who normally writes smaller- ranging stories set in Montana and the American West, may have overextended himself in this novel. The structure that sends the protagonist in search of missing teammates all over the world results in fractured storytelling and characters who disappear too quickly to be developed. While most critics recognize Doig's strong capacity for lyrical, descriptive writing, the consensus is that he is better off focusing his laser on the intimate lives of the American West than he is developing a wider focus in setting and in scope.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

More About the Author

Ivan Doig is the author of ten previous books. Seven are novels, including English Creek and Dancing at the Rascal Fair, and three are nonfiction, including the highly acclaimed memoir This House of Sky, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. A former ranch hand, newspaperman, and magazine editor, Doig holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. He lives in Seattle.

Customer Reviews

It is very well written and an interesting story.
I know they did these things, and they did kill a small number of people, but the premise seemed too far-fetched for me.
David W. Nicholas
It is rare for me not to finish a book, but this one was one of those!
Sylvia Cooke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A reader on October 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Ivan Doig has written a book that takes place during World War II, but this book is not ABOUT the war. Instead, he has written a touching, sometimes wrenching chronicle of one man's quest to 'beat the odds'. Although this novel takes place over two years during a terrible time in history, it is not a historical account of the war. It is the story of one man's search for his purpose in life, always viewed through the lens of what might happen to that life if the odds don't go his way. I loved this book, and did not want to turn the last page. Every one of Mr. Doig's books has deeply touched my heart, and this one is no different. If you know Mr. Doig's works, you know what I mean.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Alan A. Elsner VINE VOICE on September 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
Ben, the hero of this World War II drama, was a member of a Montana college football team that went undefeated in 1941. Because his father is a small town newspaper editor, he is plucked from pilot training to become a military reporter at the service of a shadowy but all-powerful propaganda outfit. His assignment is to write profiles in courage of all the other team members, now fighting the war in different theaters.

Ben also falls in love with Cass, the hard-bitten female pilot who is helping fly planes from Montana to Alaska where they can be handed over to the Russian air force. Trouble is, Cass is married and her husband is busy somewhere in the Pacific fighting the Japanese.

The premise and set-up for this book are promising and the leading characters are engaging. One quickly starts rooting for Ben and Cass, who grab precious moments away from their assignments for energetic coupling. These scenes have a gritty "film noir" character that is very compelling.

(SPOILER ALERT) As Ben pursues his assignment, his teammates are afflicted by terrible luck. One by one, they start dying, even the ones with apparently safe assignments. We learn that at the heart of the winning season lay an awful secret. Is the dream team cursed?

It is completely unrealistic that the military would proceed with Ben's dumbass assignment once the deathtoll starts climbing. It would have been a morale-buster on the homefront. And Ben's smarty-pants correspondence through telex messages with his superiors started to with this reader cloy pretty quickly.

My biggest criticism of this book is that it doesn't bring us enough of the terror and also the exhilaration of war.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. A. McPhail on November 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A relatively brief book by contemporary standards, "The Eleventh Man" is muscular, yet trim and solid as a Montana ranch-hand; as thoughtful and wise as an old newspaper editor. A skilled craftsman, writer Ivan Doig has used minimal space to create dozens of memorable characters and to weave more than a dozen individual stories into a novel that was even better with a second reading.

Not one to theorize nor to waste time on gratuitous action, Doig writes about the real world and its unexpected adventures. Many of his earlier works have dealt with pioneer lives and hardships, as the western territories were settled by dedicated, risk-taking seekers of new lives. They have dealt with brutal forces of nature. "The Eleventh Man" deals with many of those forces, as they took place in the 1940's, pressurized and traumatized by World War II, adding the thoughtless violence of war as it affects individuals and their highly believable lives. He puts names and faces on heroic characters, who suffer unheroic deaths in a cause that has been often been distorted and idealized. And he recognizes the many unkind and petty things that people do.

With his hero, former Montana football player Ben Reinking, his heroine, wise and lively aviator Cass Standish, Doig lovingly expresses his fascination with people and with human situations. Throughout, he expresses his love love of nature and its enormity. How wonderful to find a writer who sees and hears the fundamental things that enrich our lives, and who expresses them so well.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By E. Kohen on January 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Ivan Doig is a much better writer than this book would indicate. Doig tries to combine a love story (or two), a "lost youth" story (or eleven), a war story, a "military intelligence is an oxymoron" story, and a few other transparent plots (a plane downed in inhospitable wilderness--with a rescuer magically a few minutes away, deaths of characters more predictable than in a Miss Marple story) and winds up creating an unsatisfying mishmash that left me feeling cheated. This was the one book I asked my wife for as a Christmas present, and I couldn't wait to get started on it, since I have been a fan of Doig's for many many years. I think he got lazy on this one, and I hope that his next comes back up to the standard he has set for his novels.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By K. M. VINE VOICE on October 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Eleventh Man is Ivan Doig's fictional meditation on the perplexing question of why a given group of farflung American active combatants might suffer far higher mortality than the national average. Ben Reinking was one of the 1941 "Supreme Team" of Montana's Treasure State University (based loosely on real Montan college players). The former teammates all served their country after Pearl Harbor, believing most of their number would return home and continue on with their lives. What if, however, this group hung out on the edge of the probability bell curve where "bitter arithmetic" held sway, where the law of averages was out of whack?

The novel simultaneously explores unsung battle theaters and underpublicized war arrangements. TPWP (a Doig fictional stand-in for the actual Office of War Information's news arms) intended to use the Supreme Team as a public "morale" tool, and it commandeered Ben away from his pilot's training to become a war correspondent and write about his former teammates. Since the men were stationed in various combat zones around the globe, Ben traveled far and wide to interview them. But they didn't take part in the hallmarks of the war we now recall most such as D-Day in Europe.

Jake Eisman, for example, flew Lend Lease B-17 Flying Fortress bombers to Alaska where the planes were turned over to Soviet pilots. In one of his most engrossing adventures, Ben hitched a ride in the Plexiglas nose cone of a bomber Jake delivered.

Ben also traveled to the Olympic Peninsula near La Push, Washington to patrol isolated headlands with Sigmund Prokosch of the U.S. Coastguard. Sig kept watch for Japanese submarines at sea, the chance of some offloads onto land from those subs, and balloon bombs that could set the vast forests ablaze. Sig was engaged.
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