AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: The Unwilling by John Hart

Publication Date: February 2, 2021
Format: Audio
Genre:  War, Vietnam War, Mystery
Narrator: Kevin Stillwell

Publisher: Macmillan Audio
13 hours 58 min
Buy: Kindle | Audio


Gibby's older brothers have already been to war. One died there. The other came back misunderstood and hard, a decorated killer now freshly released from a three-year stint in prison.

Jason won't speak of the war or of his time behind bars, but he wants a relationship with the younger brother he hasn't known for years. Determined to make that connection, he coaxes Gibby into a day at the lake: long hours of sunshine and whisky and older women.

But the day turns ugly when the four encounter a prison transfer bus on a stretch of empty road. Beautiful but drunk, one of the women taunts the prisoners, leading to a riot on the bus. The woman finds it funny in the moment, but is savagely murdered soon after.

Given his violent history, suspicion turns first to Jason; but when the second woman is kidnapped, the police suspect Gibby, too. Determined to prove Jason innocent, Gibby must avoid the cops and dive deep into his brother's hidden life, a dark world of heroin, guns, and outlaw motorcycle gangs.

What he discovers there is a truth more disturbing than he could have imagined: not just the identity of the killer and the reasons for Tyra's murder, but the forces that shaped his brother in Vietnam, the reason he was framed, and why the most dangerous man alive wants him back in prison.


I received this book through netgalley from Macmillan Audio in exchange for an honest review.  

This book was excellent.  Rarely do we read about what war does to people, especially when most of their time in the service is held in secret.  When Jason gets out of jail one of the first thins he does is get in touch with his younger and only living brother. His older brother and twin was killed in Vietnam prompting him to sign up. When he was dishonorably discharged and sent home addicted to heroin his family pretty much wrote him off.  Now he is trying to mend some bridges with his brother.  

When a young woman who used to date Jason and was seen waving a gun at him a few days before is found brutally murdered all evidence points to Jason.  Jason didn't do it but his parents don't seem to want to help and he doesn't want his younger brother any more involved than he already is.  When Jason discovers why he was set up he is angry but also knows how much danger his brother is in if he doesn't do exactly what he is being asked to do.  

This is a story of family, and how fractured it can become in tragedy.  It also shows how easily addicts are written off by their families without trying to help or find out the why.  It is a coming of age as Gibby breaks free of his parents overprotectiveness and tries to find his own way.  It is a thriller in the mystery surrounding Jasons return to prison and who is behind it.  

John Hart hasn't disappointed me yet in his writing and this book is no different. He brings this time of coming of age during the Vietnam war when men 18 need to register and have the risk of being drafted and going to war to life.   The free spirit and naive longing of just going to the quarry to swim and lay in the sun ogling girls paired with turning 18 and the possibility of being shipped off to war to die in a war that no one seems to understand. This is a great book about damaged people just trying to find their way the best they can.  

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