Saturday, July 14, 2018

Book Review: 'Bones of My Grandfather: Reclaiming a Lost Hero of World War II' by Clay Bonnyman Evans

Author/freelance writer Clay Bonnyman Evans lives in South Carolina and Colorado. As a journalist Clay wrote for Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register and Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.) His has published four novels – THE WINTER WITCH, BEHIND THE GREEN VEST, I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT and now this immensely moving BONES OFMY GRANDFATHER. He has also published important articles in the Denver Post, the Occidental, Marathon & Beyond, and New Mexico Magazine. His journalistic talents are highly respected and awarded and most assuredly add to the impact of this memoir of his grandfather, but even more than his reportage is the genuine family bonding he so respectfully demonstrates in this important and very rewarding book.

BONES OF MY GRANDFATHER recounts Clay’s true search for truth. As the back cover of his book summarizes, ‘In November 1943, Marine 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, Jr. was mortally wounded while leading a successful assault on a critical Japanese fortification on the Pacific atoll of Tarawa, and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor. The brutal, bloody 76-hour battle would ultimately claim the lives of more than 1,100 Marines and 5,000 Japanese forces. But Bonnyman's remains, along with those of hundreds of other Marines, were hastily buried and lost to history following the battle, and it would take an extraordinary effort by a determined group of dedicated civilians to find him. In 2010, having become disillusioned with the U.S. government's half-hearted efforts to recover the "lost Marines of Tarawa," Bonnyman's grandson, Clay Bonnyman Evans, was privileged to join the efforts of History Flight, Inc., a non-governmental organization dedicated to finding and repatriating the remains of lost U.S. service personnel. In Bones of My Grandfather, Evans tells the remarkable story of History Flight's mission to recover hundreds of Marines long lost to history in the sands of Tarawa. Even as the organization begins to unearth the physical past on a remote Pacific island, Evans begins his own quest to unearth the reclaim the true history of his grandfather, a charismatic, complicated hero whose life had been whitewashed, sanitized and diminished over the decades. On May 29, 2015, Evans knelt beside a History Flight archaeologist as she uncovered the long-lost, well-preserved remains of his grandfather. And more than seventy years after giving his life for his country, a World War II hero finally came home.’

A fine synopsis, this, but what it does not convey is the manner in which Clay shares this true story. The fact that he includes many photographs in the book enhances the validity of the story, but the images as with the prose make this a personal spiritual journey. Brilliantly executed, this book makes us all re-consider war and the scars left behind, but it also underlines the devotion of family to truth and honor. This is an unforgettable memoir and exploration of persistence – that war cannot destroy spirit. Grady Harp, July 18

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.