The Long Way Home

Did you know that when the US entered the Great War, World War I, one-third of its population had been born overseas or had a parent who was an immigrant? In fact, at the height of the US deployment, nearly one in five American soldiers was foreign-born. These are the facts at the heart of David Laskin’s book The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War, though it is far from a mere recitation of facts. Laskin follows the lives of 12 men, 11 themselves immigrants, and relates the stories of their lives in Europe, their journeys to Ellis Island, and how each of them eventually found themselves on the frontlines.

From the publisher’s description:

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, one-third of the nation’s population had been born overseas or had a parent who was an immigrant. At the peak of U.S. involvement in the war, nearly one in five American soldiers was foreign-born. Many of these immigrant soldiers—most of whom had been drafted—knew little of America outside of tight-knit ghettos and backbreaking labor. Yet World War I would change their lives and ultimately reshape the nation itself. Italians, Jews, Poles, Norwegians, Slovaks, Russians, and Irishmen entered the army as aliens and returned as Americans, often as heroes.

In The Long Way Home, award-winning writer David Laskin traces the lives of a dozen men, eleven of whom left their childhood homes in Europe, journeyed through Ellis Island, and started over in a strange land. After detailing the daily realities of immigrant life in the factories, farms, mines, and cities of a rapidly growing nation, Laskin tells the heartbreaking stories of how these men—both conscripts and volunteers—joined the army, were swept into the ordeal of boot camp, and endured the month of hell that ended the war at the Argonne, where they truly became Americans. Those who survived were profoundly altered—and their experiences would shape the lives of their families as well.

Epic, inspiring, and masterfully written, The Long Way Home is the unforgettable true story of the Great War, the world it remade, and the men who fought for a country not of their birth, but which held the hope and opportunity of a better way of life.

The book jacket employs words like “epic,” “inspiring,” “masterfully written,” “a must-read,” and “riveting,” as well as “brilliant” and “entirely fresh.” None of those glowing terms overstate the case, at least not in this reader’s opinion. Laskin appears to write as a true patriot, one proud of our melting pot heritage and inspired by the examples of those who risked so much for the promise of freedom and the pride of country.

The Long Way Home is a fascinating book. I cannot imagine the kinds of sacrifices these men made not only in leaving their homeland for a better life but also in the horror that is war. I especially found the depiction of the battles in the Argonne forest to be intriguing as my mother has a picture of her grandfather in the Argonne taken during the war. Did he fight alongside the heroes of Laskin’s book? I don’t know but it sure makes for interesting reading.

Highly recommended.

Wife and mother, Bible teacher and blogger, Lisa loves Jesus, coffee, dark chocolate and, of course, books. Read more of her reflections at Lisa writes…. Lisa thanks publisher Harper Collins for sending her a review copy of this fascinating book!

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