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The Recipient's Son: A Novel of Honor
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2012
Steve Phillips writes what he knows. As a graduate of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1992, he describes the environment that he experienced in his four years by the bay. But his affiliation with the Academy is not limited to the episodic nature of his years there. He grew up in the shadow of the Chapel Dome. His father is a 1967 graduate, and his brother is a 1996 graduate. He knows the Academy's history and it's culture. In "The Recipient's Son", Phillips offers an in-depth journey into not only the daily regimen of life in the Brigade of Midshipmen, but he also pulls back the curtain to give the reader a glimpse into the culture that makes the service academies the unique institutions that they are.

In "The Recipient's Son," Steve captures the essence of life at the Academy in the late 1980's and early 1990's. These were pivotal years in the evolution of the Brigade of Midshipman. The Class of 1992 entered with many semblances of older traditions still in place. The evolving nature of US military culture of the day brought many changes to "the Yard" during Steve's years there. The impact of the Tailhook scandal of 1991 ushered in an era of sensitivity and political correctness that brought significant changes in the way the Brigade of Midshipmen trained and lived. The storyline of "The Recipient's Son" captures this well. Additionally, Steve describes the challenges posed to the Brigade of Midshipmen by those who neither fully understand nor embrace the history and culture of the institution.

Steve Phillips draws upon his experience and knowledge of the Academy to weave a tale that incorporates elements of realism that any USNA alumni will recognize as all-too-realistic. The novel captures the salient aspects of life in the Brigade of Midshipmen: the bonds between classmates, the hopes and aspirations of each midshipman, the fears and frustrations of Plebe Year, the monotony and excitement of life within Bancroft Hall, and the ever-watching eye of a public that does not entirely understand this cauldron of leadership. Not since James Webb's "A Sense of Honor" has an author captured the experience of being an Academy midshipman in such detail and intimacy.

I would consider the book as "required reading" for any young man or woman considering attendance at any of the service academies. Moreover, the fast-paced story and in-depth look into the bowels of the Naval Academy will appeal to any reader with an interest in military leadership and naval heritage.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2012
The Recipient's Son is a moving look at its hero's journey and a clear-eyed take on an iconic institution, its setting, and its denizens. It will engage insiders (perhaps starting a few arguments) and both fascinate and inform outsiders.

This engrossing coming-of-age novel is also a dive into the world's largest aquarium--Bancroft Hall, known as "Mother B"--home to the Brigade of Midshipman. Along the outer confines of Mother B spectators, faculty, and officers observe the midshipmen--as similar and ordered as schools of zebra fish swimming alongside the aquarium glass in neat formations--but as they glide deeper into the depths their huge tank, they fade from view. Out of sight they become real men and women with real egos, libidos, demons, and hopes. Author Stephen Phillips transforms readers into fortunate SCUBA divers finning along a little-known reef--silent, other-worldly observers of the Brigade in all its hormonal, adolescent, untidy reality. The book rings with the authenticity of an author who has been there, done that, bought the tee shirt, as Phillips clearly has.

If I imagined that this novel had been commissioned by some naval academy buff, the charge would have been daunting: "I want something that captures the academy as an institution, the navy's tribal communities, Annapolis and Annapolitans, the fear and the pride of Plebe Year, the pressures and complexities of the academy's transition from all male to coeducational, contrasting leadership styles, has complex characters wrestling with a riveting dilemma, plus some profound truths about what it means to graduate and serve. Oh, and spice it up with some sex." There's one missing element in this imaginary charge, and in the book: the academy's many fine teaching faculty, in some respects the flywheel that sustains institutional RPM. But Philips has accomplished everything on that imaginary list, and more, in vivid detail and with a style that approaches thriller speed and thriller surprise near the end. And being of a certain age, I must say with a grin that in the background of the protagonist-midshipman's affair with an officer, I can hear Simon and Garfunkel warbling, "And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson . . ."

Bravo Zulu (well done), Mr. Phillips!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Naval Academy underwent a major change between the `60s of A Sense of Honor and The Return of Philo T. McGiffin and the early `90s of The Recipient's Son. Nevertheless, its mission remains the same:

"To develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character, to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government."

In The Recipient's Son, Stephen Phillips takes the reader inside Bancroft and the Yard, following one exceptional midshipman's journey through four tempestuous years at The Academy. During this journey, Midshipman Durago must deal with problems of his own making, encountering various types of leadership, and lack thereof, as found in any large organization. Phillips weaves Durago's story within the traditions and challenges faced by all midshipmen, although his quest to graduation and commissioning has a unique twist. The author's experience as an Academy graduate and the fact that The Recipient's Son is published by the prestigious Naval Institute Press lends authenticity to this tale.

Phillips' storytelling ability makes The Recipient's Son a real page-turner. It would be enjoyed by a general readership and is a must-read for anyone associated with any of the service academies or with an interest in the military.

Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2012
"The Recipient's Son" earns my highest recommendation for anyone interested in the Navy or the Naval Academy as well as the general public who would like to read a good tale. As a Naval Academy graduate and now a retired career Navy officer, I rank this book alongside "A Sense of Honor" by Jim Webb. Both are authentic and well written stories about young people doing their best in difficult situations. Stephen Phillips, the author of "The Recipient's Son," fills his story with important aspects of Navy and Naval Academy history. He presents intriguing and important questions about leadership and ethics that would be suitable in a classroom discussion. Character development is well done and readers will be able to quickly understand the hurdles that the central protagonist faces. I really liked the midshipman who is the subject of the book's title. He is a compelling young person who definitely will evoke emotion as well as pride in our nation's young people. This is a must read for alumni and interested candidates but also for anyone who wants a great story that is well written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2012
A rare glimpse inside the Naval Academy, not a book I would normally think to read, but one which I didn't put down until I'd come to the end. Definitely a must read for anyone considering attending the Academy or sending one's child there, but The Recipient's Son also engages those outside of this milieu. Self-sacrificing behavior attributed to a sense of honor and tradition may possibly be embedded in the DNA. All of this we consider, quickly passing from an outsider to an intime.

Don't get me wrong, this is a fun read as well, a book you would want to bring on a plane to have your attention easily focused on a very real story that develops within an institution for which we should all be grateful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2013
The Recipient's Son is something of a typical Service Academy novel. It is reasonably well-written, by a Naval Academy graduate, and it has a mildly interesting plot. However, the author has inserted all of the midshipmen issues of the day- sex, harassment, overt political pressure a little too obviously. It all feels too contrived to me. As a Naval Academy graduate, I "got" all the references and recognized all the landmarks, but it just didn't feel that believable. It did take me back to my own struggles in plebe year, maybe that was part of my problem with the book. Still I kept coming back to it, in spite of myself. Clearly Philipps knows how to get a Grad's attention.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2012
Why isn't anyone reading this book? It's got it all -- Naval Academy history, easy to follow story line, a little romance, great cast of characters and superb writing. I stayed up until 2 am one night, so I'd say it is a real page turner. Need I say more? Common readers, you've got to give this one a chance!!! The author (who is an academy grad) did a great job and really knows and appreciates the significance of the subject matter.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Stephen Phillips has allowed readers to get what feels like a realistic insider's view of what life at the Academy was like in the 1990's. In his insightful book - "The Recipient's Son: A Novel of Honor" - the author takes those of us who have no clue as to what life is like at any of America's academies - and not only educates us, but also entertains us with a great story. In creating this tale of honor and human emotions, he carefully and skillfully weaves in a great plot with very believable characters. This all plays out - making for some page turning reading!

A book worthy of adding to your summer reading list. I would think those who have actually attended the Naval Academy will get a special joy at finding much that they can identify with. For the rest of us - it was an eye opening look at an unknown world. Enjoyable reading - well written, well paced novel with lots of energy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2012
Stephen Phillips tells the story of a Medal of Honor recipient's son attending the U.S. Naval Academy. At the beginning, despite his family roots being steeped in honor, he is not the most likable character and struggles greatly with embracing both the Academy and it's traditions. As someone who rarely reads fiction these days, I was so please to find one that kept me absolutely captivated from start to finish. Stephen Phillips accurately captures some of the bizarre quirks of Academy life making them, in effect, a "character" within the book. However, Phillips weaves the story in a manner that doesn't rely on the Academy as a character to sell it. The story of The Recipient's Son remains just that - an accurately written tale of a young man struggling to find his true character and place. It is a thoroughly enjoyable and well-written novel that would be a great read for someone interested in attending a service Academy or just someone who wants to get a glimpse of life inside Bancroft Hall.
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on August 14, 2013
I could not put this book down. The story draws you in right from the start. The pressure cooker that is the United States Naval Academy provides an environment in which characters quickly reveal themselves for who they truly are, and Stephen Phillips takes advantage of that type of raw transparency to let the reader learn about everything about the players in this great story. His prose is rich as he unveils timeless human struggles played out in the historic milieu of the Naval Academy - sons and daughters trying to live up to unrealistic parental expectations, Holden Caufield ("Catcher in the Rye") boarding school types for whom the Academy is just another institutional environment, romantic love that cuts across forbidden lines, bureaucrats vs. those who are truly dedicated to the mission of military service. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good story with characters who are easy to like, or hate. If you have any connection or familiarity with the military or the service academies that would be icing on the cake; but the book is for everyone.
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