For Malice and Mercy Review by IndieReader: 4.3/5 Stars
“A well-researched, well written and interesting portrait. The story creates characters that the reader cares about, and their fates are by no means assured in the time of war; readers will keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.”
FOR MALICE AND MERCY tells the story of Mormons from Utah who take part in the US efforts during World War II, including German immigrants, naturalized citizens who are detained by the government.
Gary W. Toyn’s FOR MALICE AND MERCY begins with a fairly idyllic summer game of softball. When Hank Meyer, son of German immigrants Marta and Karl–all part of Utah’s Mormon community–is searching his closet for a baseball mitt for his sister Ella’s friend Billie, he shows her a suitcase of memorabilia from a trip to Germany: a too-small Hitler Youth shirt, pictures of Hitler, and a Nazi flag. He shrugs off her questions, saying that he simply thought some of these mementoes might be valuable someday.
But soon Pearl Harbor is bombed and the United States enters World War II. Much to the surprise of the Meyers, FBI agents come to their house one night and take Karl and Marta Meyer away. Hank and Ella spend weeks trying to find their parents; when th
ey finally do, they are advised not to take the chance of visiting them. The two try to keep the family farm going, eventually selling the cattle and giving their cow to a neighbor for the time being. Hank joins up and is delighted that he’s able to be part of the Army Air Force; he’s assigned to a B-17 bomber. Descriptions of his experience while flying as a gunner are vivid–the turbulence and the cold flyers experience are significant. Given a week before he has to report to duty, he goes to a small town in southern Texas to visit his parents. Meanwhile, Hank and Ella’s friend Billie has learned to fly at a local airfield in Utah, and she joins the WASPs, the Women Airforce Service Pilots, with the job of testing and ferrying aircraft to free up male pilots for fighting duty. The women pilots have an uphill battle for respect from the men around them, including those servicing the aircraft they fly–not always in a way that keeps the pilots safe. Ella, at home alone, becomes a nurse but also faces prejudice for her German roots, as when vandals paint swastikas on the door of her home. There are a few errors in the text that might have been prevented by careful editing, but the book is generally so well written that these rare errors don’t diminish the readers’ focus on the story. For example, “She squeezed her grandmother’s hand, then dashed to the Meyer’s house.” should be “dashed to the Meyers’ house”; this is a repeated issue, where the singular possessive is used instead of the plural possessive that the context shows is meant. But these are quibbles: the story creates characters that the reader cares about, and their fates are by no means assured in the time of war. The description of what occurs when various characters find themselves in Germany is palpably tense; readers will keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. FOR MALICE AND MERCY is a well-researched, well written and interesting portrait of Mormons from Utah experiencing World War II, including the tribulations of German immigrants who are imprisoned by the US government during the war, even as their son volunteers to fight as a US airman.
~Elizabeth Jewell for IndieReader