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In the Shadows of the Sun    by Alexander Parsons order for
In the Shadows of the Sun
by Alexander Parsons
Order:  USA  Can
Nan A. Talese, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Alexander Parsons sets his novel of one family in two places, in a world torn apart in the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In the deserts of New Mexico, near the Oscuras Mountains and the town of Cornucopia, generations of the Strickland family have run the Bar-X ranch. The Philippines jungle is the backdrop for the second portion of In the Shadows of the Sun, from the perspective of prisoners of war.

Ross and Baylis Strickland, their respective wives Sara and Alida, and children, live together in a home of 'hand-laid planks'. The raising of cattle is the Strickland mainstay, and the stone barn was built with the sweat of the two brothers, and their father John, before his fatal fall. 'The sun cast long shadows across the drive by the time he neared the house', when Baylis spots a green sedan in the yard. The soldier explains that the 'Army Air Corps needs a bombing range', announcing the repossession of the Strickland property by the War Department. Then, Ross's seventeen-year-old son Jack joins the army against his father's wishes. The Stricklands, along with other land owners, face 'New cracks big enough to swallow a man and his ranch.'

In another part of the world, Jack's story is told amongst American and Filipino POWs in the horrors of the 'Bataan Death March'. During the turmoil of their displacement, further loss is delivered to the Stricklands in a telegram stating that Jack was killed in action. The family's bonds are even more strained when Ross buries his grief within. Subsequent events - strife, harbored resentments, anger, and separations - damage the Strickland family relationships even more.

Alexander Parsons compassionately and lyrically blends historical events with a family torn asunder by war and by unforgiving circumstances. His portrayals of the desolation of the southwest deserts are poignant. Though I found the novel's theme of interest, I was disappointed by a slow-moving, overly-mournful story, with depictions of locales that were sometimes tedious, and would have prefered more emphasis on the Bataan (Peninsula) Death March and less on the torn-family situation. However, readers who enjoy emotion- and description-driven historicals will appreciate In the Shadows of the Sun.

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