Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Once Two Heroes: A Novel Hardcover – January 27, 2003
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
From Publishers Weekly
The specter of racism hangs ominously over this intelligent, harrowing novel of death, loyalty and revenge. In 1940, Mather Rose, a young African-American raised in Paris, returns to his extended family in California, where he marries and starts a family. With France under siege, his parents attempt to flee to America but are killed en route, prompting Mather to enlist in the army. He rises to the rank of sergeant and comes home a decorated war hero. Because of his race, however, he is denied the Medal of Honor he is due, so he travels to Washington in hopes of collecting it. As he is driving back to L.A. through Mississippi on Thanksgiving eve, a confrontation with racist Nathan Hampton ends in the white man's death. Meanwhile, Nathan's brother, Lewis, has also recently returned home from the war, winding up in an uneasy marriage to the daughter of a wealthy New Orleans businessman. An otherwise tolerant and reasonable man, when Lewis learns of his brother's death he vows revenge on Mather. Baker (Naming the New World) takes many risks, some of which prove more successful than others. He ingeniously divides the novel in two, devoting the first half to Mather and the second to Lewis, while Nathan's death is described in a prologue, giving the nightmarish ending an even greater sense of inevitability. Although the pacing is uneven and several major plot points are either elided or glossed over, there is no denying the force and import of Baker's story or the elegance of his craft.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
...this book is a powerhouse, yet one full of charm and grace; it will enchant, engage, and wring you dry! -- Francisco Goldman, author of The Long Night of White Chickens
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I knew the book went further and encouraged each reader to identify with from deep within their soul when I read this passage the first time:
“He pushes open the door on the dark musty rooms, but they have destroyed her piano as well. They have tried to make their war their art. Because they cannot speak to Him, they will annihilate God. He enters the flat and call to her. There is no answer” ( Calvin, Baker. Once Two Heroes p-122)
Each time I read that passage I know that each of us, any of us, is capable of anything no matter how heinous trying to hide our desperate loneliness. I can identify with both sides for racism is a kinda bully-like cowardice and I've been bullied and been one myself. Sadly, when at my worst I did not even know it. But years later I recall it all. Every time my sense of entitlement seemed threatened, even real and imagined, I went on auto-pilot.
Sadly but fortunately Baker is encouraging me to feel my deepest darkest recesses of my twisted self. I think this is what sets him apart from an entertaining author, yet the writing is fast and never stalls or gets lost on pointless tangents.
The first prologue takes us to Thanksgiving 1946. Mather Rose is driving across the country headed for California in an almost-brand new car. He is in the middle of nowhere in the state of Mississippi and stops at a gas station to fill up his beautiful Zephyr. Out comes a young black boy, who helps take care of the car and does some small talk with the war hero. Mather is nervous, since he knows that being a black man by himself in the middle of the Deep South is asking for trouble, but the young boy with his idle chatter eases Mather's mind and he soon relaxes. Frankie, the young boy at the gas station, notices the medals pinned all over Mather's shirt and is in total awe. Surely, Mather Rose is some type of war hero.
Mather is looking for a place to stay, so Frankie runs inside the station to ask his boss, Nathan Hampton, for help and to show him the one-dollar tip he had been given by this WWII hero. Nathan takes the tip from the boy and goes outside to see for himself what is going on. When he sees that Mather is black, Nathan's attitude immediately changes. What happens next is a turning point for both Mather and Nathan --- there is no turning back.
We now move back in time to 1940. Mather Rose has just arrived in America. Mather's new life in California revolves around his father's family. He gets to know his cousins and aunts and uncles, starts work in the family business and meets his future wife. World War II soon begins.
Mather's parents are still in Paris. They die while trying to escape to America and Mather decides to enlist, even though the United States has yet to join in the fight. But soon after, they hear news of Pearl Harbor and everything has changed. Mather goes against his family's wishes, but they are proud that he has the conviction to fight for his country.
After a few years in Europe, the war is over and Mather returns as a decorated war hero. He comes home to his family and his children but then realizes that he needs to return to Washington to retrieve his Medal of Honor, which he never received. It is on his journey back to California from D.C. that he stops along the way to get gas in the middle of Mississippi.
We then move to the second half of the book, to the story of Lewis Hampton. Lewis Hampton's background is one of racial segregation. When he goes to Europe to fight in World War II, he finds himself in the midst of men of all races. While at first it bothers him, he learns to get used to it. There are hints of racial prejudice in little things he says and does. Lewis often refers to some of the others as Northerners, clearly separating himself from them because he is from the South. He is reminded that they are all Americans, but deep down Lewis feels great pride in being a Southerner. As with Mather, the reader gets to know Lewis on an intimate basis. And, like Mather, Lewis is a family man who eventually gets married and works for his wife's father. Pride in family and being a Southerner is a big part of Lewis' life. And, although Mather and Lewis are from two totally different backgrounds, they do share the same pride and love for their families. But pride can be destructive, as the reader will soon find out.
ONCE TWO HEROES is about two men, racial prejudices and pride in family and in one's ethnic background. But it's also about what happens when two different worlds meet in a time when one did not dare cross over racial boundaries. It is an important novel that should not be dismissed.
--- Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton
Calvin Baker's second novel, ONCE TWO HEROES, is the story of two men, and how racism can shape a person and their destiny. Two main characters are depicted, two World War II heroes: Mather Rose, a Black American raised in France, and Lewis Hampton, a Caucasian man born and raised in the Deep South. The reader learns about these two war heroes, two men who love their families, their wives and children, and who both have hopes and aspirations just like any person we would meet on the streets. But when their worlds collide, the horror and tragedy of racism is too ugly to bear. The shock of what happens is, unfortunately, not foreign to our modern world.
ONCE TWO HEROES comes highly recommended by this reader. I believe this is one of the more important novels to be written in 2003, and should not be dismissed. For those of the faint of heart, be warned! The book ends in a violent nature, and may not be appreciated by all readers.