“The Lonely War” by Alan Chin— Peace vs. War

Chin, Alan. “The Lonely War”, Dreamspinner Press, 2012.

Peace vs. War

Amos Lassen

I am so glad to see his book back in print; I loved it when I first read it and loved it even more when I reread it. Alan Chin writes about war as seen through the eyes of a Buddhist, Andrew Waters who must deal with the savageness of World War II in contrast to his own feelings of personal peace. Along with the war come other problems—Waters is half-Chinese and this provokes the others that he shares a ship with and he must find a way to get through that (which he does). His other problem deals with the fact that he is in love with his superior officer and is extremely difficult to love another man in the close proximity the two are in on board and within the code of conduct dictated by the military. Then, in a moment when he was not thinking, he told his shipmates that he was gay and there are consequences.

The ship becomes a casualty of war and the crew is taken to a Japanese prisoner of war camp at Changi and is held there. Andrew decides that the love he has for the man he loves is worth a sacrifice and he agrees to become the commandant’s whore. He is then able to influence the officer to treat his crew kindly.

Chin writes with such emotion that this sensitive novel keeps the reader drying his eyes as he reads. His descriptions are also powerful and I felt that I was right there at the scene of action. The book is actually about “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” but years before it became official policy. While interred Arthur is forced to look within himself and find the courage to sacrifice himself so that others will benefit. Chin also takes a look at war and its horrors but it is also a love story, a romance between an enlisted man and his superior and it looks at sacrifice. Yet even though this is quite basically a romance, the love story takes a back seat to the war story. There are no heavy sex scenes but there is a look at what love is and what men do to survive as the fighting continues.

Chin is a master storyteller and it is obvious that he has also done his homework about this period thereby making sure that the story rings true. I found myself doing introspection as I read because being a pacifist; I would not usually find myself reading about war but Chin makes the war human and the characters pull us into the plot.