'Devotion' perfectly paced, cruises along in the fast lane

AP News
Posted: Nov 09, 2015 10:25 AM

"Devotion" (Ballantine Books), by Adam Makos

In the spirit of "Unbroken" and "The Boys in the Boat" comes "Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice" by journalist Adam Makos.

This time the setting is the early days of the Korean War. And, again, the author chooses to focus on a little-known event in history. Makos, a masterful storyteller, focuses on Jesse Brown, who grew up in a Mississippi sharecropper family, graduated from high school, joined the U.S. Navy and quickly rose through the ranks to become the nation's first black carrier pilot.

"Devotion" pivots on the unlikely friendship between Brown and Tom Hudner, a white New Englander who attended Harvard University and the Naval Academy. He explores the blatant racism of early 1950s through the unique lens of wartime.

In the introduction, Makos refers to his staff — and their work here is impressive. Hundreds of hours of interviews with dozens of veterans and their families, thousands of pages of documents, articles, love letters and visits to key locations from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to North Korea bring "Devotion" to life with amazing vividness.

The battles, the conversations, the struggles — they feel real in a way those in a lesser-well researched book never could. And Makos' writing never gets in the way of the story.

"As the daylight faded, the temperature was plummeting. The sweat on Tom's skin froze like a layer of frost and he shivered."

It's elegant in its simplicity.

Most of all, this is a dense book that reads like a dream. The perfectly paced story cruises along in the fast lane — when you're finished, you'll want to start all over again.