Audiobook Review: Ordinary Heroes

First of all, I just want to tell you how much I thoroughly, thoroughly loved listening to this story. I spent my time listening to this story. I did not rush and wonder when it was going to come to an end, or flip to see how many CDs were left in the case. I did not really want it to come to an end.

Ordinary Heroes is not your typical legal eagle Scott Turow you may be used to reading, but nonetheless, or maybe actually for that very reason, I absolutely enjoyed every single moment of this story. It has intrigue, secrets, love, war, humour, sadness and heartbreak. At the heart of it, I feel it is a tender nod to Turow’s father, his ordinary hero who also served during WWII.

It is actually two collective stories married by a father and son. We first hear the voice of Stewart Dubinsky following his father’s funeral. Stewart is assigned the task of going through his father’s clothes and picking the ones he wishes to keep, when he comes across letters and papers buried deep in the closet. With great shock, Stewart discovers his father was engaged to another woman before the start of WWII and that he was also court martialed and sentenced to time in jail. Secretly stealing away from the family home with this information, he sets out to discover the truth about his father, the circumstances surrounding his court martial, and in the process discovers the true identity of his mother and why he remained so tight lipped about his war experiences. He discovers that it may have nothing to do with the preferred and often told history, to protect his mother’s feelings, as she was rescued from a concentration camp.

We then switch to the past, and WWII where we hear the voice of David Dubin (he has Americanized his name, his son later reclaiming the original version). David is working for JAG and longing for the possibility of seeing combat up front. He is then issued strict order to arrest a Robert Martin. Martin is said to have disobeyed his superior officers, may be a Russian spy, is harboring a woman, Gita Lutz, who assists him. Martin all the while claims his orders come not from the US and General Teedle, but from the London O.S.S. office. Martin is also a very charismatic, handsome and suave character. Gita is his mysterious, oh so beautiful and loyal sidekick.

Dubin finds (the first time) Martin and is cast under his spell, but also utterly confused as Martin says his orders are from the O.S.S. in Britain. Dubin finds himself falling for Martin’s female cooperative, and also becomes embroiled in battling the Germans with bombs and gunfire (oh the excitement of being in combat for real!), jumping out of planes….all the while with Martin confusing the hell out of Dubin saying he does not take his orders from the US, he takes them only from the O.S.S. Basically, he’s constantly sent on a wild goose chase with the wool being pulled over his eyes at every turn. Whom does he believe? General Teedle who is threatening to hand his ass to him on a plate if he does not bring back Martin? Or Martin who convincingly stresses his alliance and loyalty to the O.S.S? Off again David is set on hot pursuit to find Martin, including being parachuted out of a plane, only to find that Martin has presumably gotten himself killed. Or is he? As once again David is sent back in to the heart of combat to track Martin down.

Dubin’s court martial is due to letting Martin go in the end and absolutely refusing to provide any explanation. Therefore he has disobeyed orders and set a suspected spy free. Through the course of his reading, David’s son Stewart remains in touch with the lawyer assigned to his father’s case and gradually they piece together the truth using David’s memoir-of-sorts and from what the old lawyer can shed light upon.

This fabulous tale is wonderfully read to you by Edward Herrmann, and he simply adds so much to the story. Turow writes with exceptional poignancy and coupled with Herrmann’s reading brought me to tears a number of times. An example would be David’s moment after heavy combat and where he tells his fellow troops to pretend dead and wait for the Germans to leave the area. David then writes that no one has told him about the smells of combat, the blood, human waste and finally…death. The other is David’s breakdown upon seeing the hundreds of bodies piled in the camp he is sent to again find Martin, and upon seeing the condition of dwellings and the emaciation and lice-covered dead all around. Herrmann’s ability to read the character’s personalities and infuse many exchanges with humour and sadness is just divine.

A 4.5 star read for me! It was excellent! Again, another gem of an audiobook. I think it helped that much more to make this story as great as it was for me.