Official Review: Journey Through Hell Almost to Heaven

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.
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teacherjh
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Official Review: Journey Through Hell Almost to Heaven

Post by teacherjh » 18 Feb 2019, 00:43

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Journey Through Hell Almost to Heaven" by Mel King.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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I do not read much historical fiction, but I do find the Civil War Era to be an interesting and unique time period to read about. Journey Through Hell Almost to Heaven by Mel King gives the reader an unusual perspective of the war as seen from a military medic. Henry Freeman, the main character, experiences all the horrors of war from the violence to families torn apart to illness and starvation. He also sees the fear and anger of soldiers facing a choice between certain death or debilitating amputation surgery. Henry was often the focus of their anger as he worked on the front lines.

Henry’s life began as the son of a doctor in Cleveland, Ohio. Henry goes to college and learns new practices about sanitation. He tries to bring this knowledge back to his father’s practice where he recently saw a patient die from infection after a surgery where his father had not washed his hands or the instruments as was common practice at the time. Meanwhile, the war is revving up between the North and the South. Eventually, Henry leaves medical school to join the infantry. However, he is a poor soldier. When his superiors learn of his medical training, they gladly transfer him to the Medical Corps. As a military doctor, Henry faces many personal and professional conflicts. He has to adjust to the realities of lack of supplies, lack of trained assistants, and even boredom at times. The last is quickly overcome when Henry faces the battle scene for the first time. He is horrified by the realities of triage such as giving men pain medication and leaving them to die so he can work on others who have more chance of survival. Henry helps perform hundreds of amputation surgeries as he is cursed by the patients. These voices and the cries of the dying will always haunt him.

I liked how the author gave unusual perspectives on the war. For instance, Henry is captured at one point and spends the remainder of the war in a camp for prisoners. This is a portion of the Civil War experience that is not as often explored. Mr. King seems to have done extensive research to make his story realistic and true to the times. He also makes an effort to explain military strategy and the importance of different battles. Additionally, the characters are well developed with adequate back story to connect with the reader.

There were some negatives to this book. First of all, it does not seem to have been professionally edited. I found over ten errors in the first half of the book mostly dealing with spacing, comma usage, and capitalization. Also, I questioned the author’s use of cursing. I’m sure that soldiers back then had colorful language, but the way he used it seemed too modern. Another issue I had was in Henry’s letters home. He tells his wife about his experiences, but the letters are repetitive of what just happened in the book. This made the pace lag. Perhaps excerpts about his feelings would have served better.

Overall, the author did a good job of making his point that despite advancements in medicine and technology, the Civil War cost the nation greatly. He encourages people to continue to seek racial equality and not forget the past. I recommend this book to historical fiction readers and anyone wanting to contemplate the realities of war. Readers who are sensitive to graphic violence will want to pass this one over. Due to the editing and a few small issues, I rate this novel as 3 out of 4 stars.

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Journey Through Hell Almost to Heaven
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Jessacardinal
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Post by Jessacardinal » 20 Feb 2019, 15:17

I can't imagine being in Henry's position through the difficult medical decisions he carried out during the war.
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Post by kdstrack » 20 Feb 2019, 16:11

I really like the unique perspective this author brings to this war. The realities of war in this time period are not always easy to confront. You highlight the author's thorough research of the subject. Thanks for your insightful review.

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Post by linham02660 » 20 Feb 2019, 18:35

The horrors of war from any perspective are gruesome. I think the medical division need high praises. Good review, Thanks for writing it.

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Post by kaymontacell » 20 Feb 2019, 23:34

Thanks for the review! I thought your summary, praises, and critiques were well balanced.
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Post by Rose Harebate » 21 Feb 2019, 05:35

I wonder how a military doctor, whose job is to save so many lives, ends up in prison. Might give this book a try to learn more. Thanks for a brief review.

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Post by kandscreeley » 21 Feb 2019, 08:53

Now this one is reminding me of MASH. The war through the eyes of a medic. Of course, it's a completely different war, but I bet it would offer a unique perspective. It's too bad about the editing, though. Thanks.
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Post by teacherjh » 21 Feb 2019, 12:25

Rose Harebate wrote:
21 Feb 2019, 05:35
I wonder how a military doctor, whose job is to save so many lives, ends up in prison. Might give this book a try to learn more. Thanks for a brief review.
He was captured. It was a POW prison.

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Post by Zora C Penter » 21 Feb 2019, 13:46

I love this book's title, and I'm happy to see that I was right in that it's a war novel! Thank you for mentioning that the cursing is too modern. That can really pull you out of the experience as a reader.

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Post by unamilagra » 21 Feb 2019, 17:24

Sounds like an interesting perspective on a war novel. I don't think I've ever read one from a medic's perspective before. I will probably skip due to the too modern cursing and graphic violence, but thanks for the review!

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Post by Dael Reader » 21 Feb 2019, 17:47

I'm not a huge fan of war fiction, but I have read books from a medical perspective that are pretty interesting. This sound's like it might be a good one, if the reader can overlook the style and mechanical errors. Good review.

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Post by BelleReadsNietzsche » 21 Feb 2019, 18:24

I enjoy stories told from a military medic perspective (even though civil war era medicine is often... not so easy on the stomach). I also lived in Cleveland for a bit, and enough #Cleveland pride rubbed off on me that I am especially interested in protagonists from there. :) I do wish the book was better edited and I’m finding repetitiveness is one of my biggest pet peeves, so I will have to weigh those when deciding whether to go ahead and read this one.

Thanks for the great review! :) I sincerely enjoyed hearing about this one.
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Post by InStoree » 22 Feb 2019, 09:34

The war leaves lasting scars on the mind, but also on the dear heart. Such a nightmarish experience and living in a terrifying environment is not human. Thank you for your review!
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teacherjh
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Post by teacherjh » 22 Feb 2019, 11:53

InStoree wrote:
22 Feb 2019, 09:34
The war leaves lasting scars on the mind, but also on the dear heart. Such a nightmarish experience and living in a terrifying environment is not human. Thank you for your review!
It was definitely an intense read at times. Thanks for the comment.

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Post by inaramid » 22 Feb 2019, 20:53

I love the idea of this but would have to wait until the editing errors are resolved. Thanks for this review!

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