Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Other Side of Life by Andy Kutler - #review

December 1941, Pearl Harbor. A peaceful Sunday morning turns into a devastating attack on American soil. Naval officer Malcolm “Mac” Kelsey is severely wounded while defending his ship. A flawed man abandoned long ago by his alcoholic wife, Kelsey has been mired in despair and hopelessness following the accidental death of Lucy, the young daughter he considers the only redemptive aspect of his life. Near the point of death, Kelsey is brought to what he believes to be an afterlife where he is offered an opportunity to shed his past memories and embark upon an alternate path in another place and time. Eager to escape his torment and begin a more tranquil existence, Kelsey accepts, only to feel quickly betrayed as he soon finds himself back in the midst of battle, this time as a Union soldier at the dawn of the Civil War.

Through Antietam, Gettysburg and four years of relentless fighting, Kelsey attempts to cast aside his painful past while trying to survive the horrors of combat. He crosses paths with compelling figures on both sides of the conflict determined to persevere and return to those they left behind. Idealistic Ethan Royston, promoted from the enlisted ranks, believes in preserving the Union but is plagued by insecurity and self-doubt. His closest friend, West Point-trained Cal Garrity, remains loyal to his home state of Virginia despite his misgivings about the virtue of the Southern cause. The war will divide these friends, just as it will divide Garrity from his adoring wife, Emily, the charismatic and headstrong daughter of a prominent Norfolk shipbuilder, forced to face the onset of war alone.

Each will endure unimaginable hardship and brutality that will forever reshape their core beliefs and values. Each will find their strength and resolve tested as they search for self-purpose, humanity, and reconciliation. Most of all, Mac Kelsey will discover the very essence of life and death, and whether the new beginning he has long coveted will bring him the inner peace he has so desperately sought.



Few things can change your life in a moment like an act of war.  Poor Kelsey knows all about that.  He was injured in the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.  And his life wasn't all that great to begin with.  So, if I were him, and given the opportunity for a 'redo' on life in another time and place...shoot, I'd take it too.

Unluckily for Kelsey, he didn't really get to choose where and when.  He gets out of the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, only to land in the middle of the US Civil War...as a Union soldier.  Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire!  Now, I was born in Pennsylvania, and spent my early childhood in the Antietam neighborhood.  Some wars are 'us' against 'them'; wars between different factions in a single country make it 'us' against 'us'.  I was raised on tales and ghosts of the Civil War, and this book feels like opening a page and stepping into history.

Stark and real, Kutler's use of language is perfect for telling this story.  The story is sweeping in nature, epically telling a tale of two different notable times in US history.  I appreciate the economical use of words.  The point gets across without a lot of extra words and flowery speech.  The characters seem like real people, and each has a story that allows us to become emotionally invested in their stories.

I am so happy to hear that Mr. Kutler is working on his next book.



Andy Kutler is a writer living in Arlington, Virginia. A native of Madison, Wisconsin and a graduate of Michigan State University (B.A.) and Georgetown University (M.A.), he has previously worked on the senior legislative staff of two United States Senators before serving as a senior policy officer with the U.S. Secret Service. He is working today as a consultant to the national security community.

While Andy’s writings have appeared in The Huffington Post and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Other Side of Life is his first novel. Andy’s interests include travel, military history, his Wisconsin sports teams, and most importantly, spending time with his wife and two children.

For more information and news please visit Andy Kutler’s Facebook page.


Click on the logo to go to the tour page, where you will find links to several more reviews and an interview with the author!  You can also find out how to become a tour guide on your own blog!

(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my objective review.)

Note:  This book helps me fulfill the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

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