The Last Day: A Novel
Warren Harlan Pease is a sniper specialist in the US Army, who on his first day home meets Jesus on a beach in New Hampshire. Warren calls the beach “a place of memories. When you come here, you take your life with you.” (3) Warren Pease, whose name alone is a metaphor for his struggle for religious understanding. Soldiers call Iraq the Mess, and as he spends hours conversing with Jesus he attempts to make “peace” with the the horrible carnage and decimation of human life he has witnessed. War forces him to question his understanding of God, and other peoples’ cultural and religious beliefs.
As a small boy, he learns one day his mother has committed suicide. On the same day he meets the person who become his best buddy, Ryan. His father is a busy veterinarian who has little time for Warren. In high school he meets Bethie Smith, who he finds out is the teacher’s daughter. When Mr. Smith is fired for teaching inappropriate material, Bethie and Warren become his home schooled students. Warren(War) loves Mr. Smith like a father. He introduces War to poetry and he falls in love Emily Dickinson. He also falls in love with Bethie.
Contradictions surround his life in the desert. Love and hate, life and death, goodness and evil, friend and enemy invade his thoughts and tests his faith realizing through Jesus it is more about believing in yourself. You never know the enemy, good and evil can be easily misread, suicide bombers change life in a flash, and people who love and hate one another can love God.
“The chaplains would have you pray, but thats because they were afraid for you being afraid for yourself. A good soldier walked with God. A frightened soldier asked God to walk with him.”(268)
Landis brings you up close to the war zone with his detailed knowledge of weaponry and operations. The story is on the edge drama with some predictability that works anyway. Prepare to weep copious tears of sweeping emotions from sadness to joy. Landis balances the melody of his themes with the harmony of Warren’s conflicts to create a glorious everlasting chanson of belief and wonder.