Saving Lou, by Linda Loegel, (Linda Loegel, Columbia, SC, 2017, 242 pages).
Book Review by Dennis Moore
May 27, 2019 (San Diego) - Linda Loegel, a born New Englander, and former East County resident of San Diego (El Cajon), now living in Garner, North Carolina, has written a poignant and heartwarming story; Saving Lou.
Having written two earlier reviews of Loegel’s books, Bumps Along the Way and If you Don’t Like Worms, Keep Your Mouth Shut, I can attest to the author being a master story teller. Saving Lou follows suit. She tells this story from beginning to end in her own inimitable and folksy manner, which is characteristic and expected of her from readers such as myself and others that have read her book(s).
This book resonates with me in so many ways, and it has similar ironies that actually moved me to an unexpected emotional recollection of two of my first born sons, especially as it regards my first born being in the United States Navy. It resonates with me in another way as my father actually served in the military, and came home from the war in a Navy vessel.
To put this book into perspective, the author states in the dedication of this well written piece of fiction: “Saving Lou is dedicated to the men and women who have served and are now serving in the military to preserve our country’s freedoms. It has been an honor to relive World War II through Lou Dyson’s eyes and give thanks to the men, women, ships, and planes that helped win the war in the Pacific. Many did not come home; this book is especially dedicated to them. It has been my intention to keep this book, while fiction, as historically accurate as possible. The major events of the USS Hornet and the USS Enterprise actually occurred during WWII.” I am actually amazed at the knowledge and mastery of military history demonstrated by the author in this book, such as finite details about “Pearl Harbor” and the island of Hawaii, as well as the makeup of aircraft carriers.
To exercise a bit of editorial license, the actual photo of the USS Hornet aircraft carrier that Loegel references in her book is pictured here. In her fictional account she indicates that this ship that Lou served on sank to the bottom of the sea before he was transferred to the USS Enterprise.
It is also ironic that on this very day, Memorial Day, the President of the United States is in Japan – the country that brought about Pearl Harbor and World War II. He is meeting with the leader of Japan, perhaps discussing with him the waste of life on both sides of that war, and the thoughts of it never happening again.
Saving Lou starts off with Mike and Laura Dyson, owners of a car dealership, in the delivery room where Laura is pregnant with twin boys which they would later name Lawrence Stuart Dyson and Louis Robert Dyson. Unfortunately, Lawrence would die at birth, and this loss would follow Lou throughout life. As a matter of fact, Lou would bemoan the death of his twin brother throughout this book, thinking and stating to himself when things would go awry for him: “I need you, Larry; I need my brother.”
While still an adolescent, Lou would pour sand in the brand new 1934 Cadillac that his father had sold to a customer from his car dealership, in the area where you would put the gas. Lou would later attribute this to not having his deceased brother Lawrence around or in his life, and Mike stating to his wife Laura; “I’d like to know why that boy does half the stuff he does. He sure didn’t get his tendencies from me.”
Lou Dyson spends a lifetime comparing himself to his dead twin brother, and comes up short each time. If his family can’t help him appreciate his true worth, will the United States Navy be able to?
World War II brings Lou face to face with two formidable enemies – a kamikaze pilot intent on destruction and his biggest enemy of all, himself.
Join Lou aboard the USS Enterprise as they sail full speed ahead into the heat of battle. It was actually aboard this USS Enterprise that Lou would distinguish himself in life, after for so long considering himself and abject failure, by being awarded a “Bronze Star Medal” for bravery and saving another sailor’s life in battle.
Again, taking a bit of editorial license, the aforementioned USS Enterprise is pictured here.
Loegel makes a poignant statement in her “Acknowledgement” in this book, which attests to my earlier mentioned fact of her being a master story teller, which states: “I would like to thank the people who have contributed their knowledge and time when I’ve sought resource material for advice. Since I’ve never been a boy nor in the Navy, I needed all the help I could get to tell Lou’s story.” In her humble way of telling this heartwarming story, she has captured the essence of what it must have been like for Lou.
As mentioned earlier, Saving Lou is rife with many personal ironies that resonates with me, notably Lou starting his military career at the Great Lakes Training Center, the same “boot camp” that my older son had graduated from before his being assigned to the USS Washington aircraft carrier. Also, as Loegel points out in her book, Lou upon graduating from this Great Lakes Training Center and being initially stationed aboard the USS Hornet and later the USS Enterprise as an aviation mechanic, the same job assignment that my son had upon graduation from boot camp.
Also, in another poignant moment in this heartwarming book of fiction by Loegel, she points out that Lou had to fight back tears of joy when his family came to see him at the graduation ceremonies at the Great Lakes Training Center. What made this resonate with me was the actual fact that I cried at the graduation of my son as my family and I came to see him at this proud and joyous occasion. This is what resonated with me about Loegel’s book, her research and attention to detail which made her story more realistic and believable. The author evokes many such emotions from me as I read this heartfelt book, which is a testament of her being a master story teller.
Saving Lou has all the aspects of a compelling drama, along with elements of romance and family togetherness and loyalty. That is what struck me particularly, as it is something that I may have found lacking in my own personal life. But, then again, this is a book of fiction, and leave it up to Loegel, she is an idealist and romantic at heart!
In summation, and to show the growth of Lou from that mischievous and insecure little boy many years earlier, a Naval Commander stated in an award ceremony: “By order of the Secretary of Navy, the Bronze Star Medal is hereby awarded to Petty Officer Louis Dyson, No. 113996. This medal is awarded to Petty Officer Louis Dyson for unwavering courage and commitment aboard the USS Enterprise. In the heat of battle and with no regard for his own life, he distinguished himself by saving the life of Fire Controlman Daniel Epstein, First Class. His bravery is in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflects credit upon himself and the United States Navy. Petty Officer Dyson, come forward and receive your Bronze Star.”
To follow up on the Bronze Star Medal awarded to Lou, the author indicated to me recently that she has written another book; Remaking Danny, the Daniel Epstein that Lou saved to earn the award, and that it is availble on Amazon.
Coming on this celebration of Memorial Day, this book by Loegel goes a long way towards honoring our country. This is a tremendous book, a book that I encourage everyone to read!
Dennis Moore has been the Associate Editor of the East County Magazine and the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online newsletter that has partnered with the East County Magazine. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.