Dave Mason’s new novel EO-N has won the Tyler R. Tichelaar Award for Best Historical Fiction in this year’s Reader Views Literary Awards. It also won the Gold Prize for Historical Fiction and the Silver Prize in the Mystery/Thriller category. With that kind of attention, you know it has to be good, and I’m happy to say it does not disappoint.
The novel begins when a young boy and his dog discover a strange piece of metal in a glacier in Norway. This discovery soon leads to questions about how it ended up in such an unlikely place.
Here Alison Wiley enters the story. A thirty-four year old biotech CEO, Alison was my favorite character in the book, probably because she, like so many of us, is searching for that deeper purpose that will make her life meaningful. She started her career wanting to help people, but now finds her time dedicated less to life-changing research and more to board meetings and attempts to please shareholders, and this, along with a series of personal losses, has left her with many questions about life’s meaning and her own purpose.
When Alison is informed that the remains of the plane flown by her late grandfather,
Jack Barton, who never returned from the war, have been found in Norway, she finds herself traveling back into her family’s past as well as physically to Norway to seek answers. With the help of Scott Wilcox, a Canadian government investigator, and some of the locals, she reconstructs the story of her grandfather’s last mission.
Mason does a wonderful job of pacing in the novel, writing short, cliffhanger-style chapters that flip back and forth from scenes with Alison and Scott to scenes with her grandfather, with a German pilot, and with a victim of appalling cruelty. As Alison puts together the pieces of her grandfather’s past, the reader is witness to the events, including some dramatic action-packed moments and a stunning partnership between two men on opposite sides of the war.
To say much more would be too give away too much of the plot. But I will assure readers that the story comes to a satisfying, heartfelt conclusion. World War II is never an easy subject to write about-its atrocities are something we wish we all could forget, but we know we never can if we wish to prevent their recurrence. It was a time that tested men’s souls, yet as Mason shows, amid all the tragedy and horror, good things also happened. As Alison realizes at the end of the novel, the war reflected “So much cruelty and horror in the world. So much hate” but also “So much kindness.”
The novel’s ending is both surprising and cathartic-I was left with goosebumps and close to tears-as Alison ultimately rises above her stress and disenchantment with her role as a CEO to make an unprecedented ethical decision that will benefit countless lives. Most poignant is that she could not have made such a decision if not for each and every one of the events, both heroic and horrifying, to which she has become inextricably connected.
Read EO-N. You will not be disappointed. The story is based on the work of true life members of the Royal Canadian Airforce. I only wish the novel’s end could also be true.
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