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which disease can claim anyone at any time. Through Ira's first-person narration, the reader observes his feUow prisoners sickening and dying, stealing food from others and vainly digging wells in attempts to avoid using the fetid stream flowing through the center of camp. Ira's greatest solace is the Soldier's Bookfor Leisure Moments, a volume of selected passages and quotation that offers him ancient reflections on the trials he faces. By the time he is sent to the prison, the existing prisonerexchange system has broken down, and the hope of making it back to Unionlines seems dismal. "Exchange," a word whose echoes are heard repeatedly among the prisoners, is only possible for those who cross the "dead Une" and have their suffering ended by a sentry's bullet. Every day the prisoners must make the ultimate existential choice: to battle for survival or to give up and cross the dead line. In surprising, hallucinatory twists, this novel becomes more than a POW chronicle. Higgins has written a book about guilt, conscience, love and ultimately hope rather than despair. A Soldier's Book is Uterary fare that should please not just historians but anyone who appreciates good historical fiction. (KH) Dreamer: A Novel by Charles Johnson Scribner, 1998, 236 pp., $23 Johnson's first novel since his National Book Award-winning Middle Passage is a fictionaUzed account of the last two years of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life. WhUe Johnson structures the book around King's welldocumented struggles for the civU rights movement in Chicago and Memphis, he introduces a fictive element in the person of Chaym Smith, who looks remarkably like King but has led a radicaUy different life. Smith is a Korean War veteran and heroin addict who did time in a psychiatric hospital after his wife and her chüdren were found brutally murdered. He is an artist, a musician, an ashramtrained Buddhist and a dead ringer for King (even their birth dates coincide ). Our narrator is one of King's disciples, Matthew Bishop, who introduces Smith to King as a possible stand-in for dangerous situations. Although King has misgivings, he commissions Bishop, who is young, idealistic and sUghtly nerdy, to work with another aide (Amy, with whom Bishop is infatuated) to ready Smith to step into King's shoes if need be. The premise of the novel is elegant: Bishop is now faced with two guides, the flip sides ofeach other, one preaching tolerance and control while the other warns, "That's how you get to belong, boy—by fitting in and mumbling the party Une and keeping your head down and losing your soul." The book moves quickly through Smith's transformation into King, his short-lived stint as King's official double and the dramatic events that follow. Along the way, the three main characters, King, Bishop and Smith, struggle to assess the nonviolent movement while trying to attain personal enlightenment. AU are haunted by the story of Cain and Abel and grapple with the question of which brother the black man should emulate . Some of the best sections of this 206 · The Missouri Review novel are the chapters that seem to occur within King's mind, when he gives in to his weariness and doubts and when the clever dopplegänger motif of the book finds resonance in King's internal conflict between individual growth and public service. The passages in which King is described as longing for time to read and meditate and spend time with his children are moving, intimate glimpses in a narrative that is sometimes too remote and in peril of sounding like a history textbook. Despite the pedantic tone, one cannot help but enjoy Johnson's premise, the giddy ingenuity of spUtting King into a "good" and a "bad" brother to illustrate the divisions within the civil rights movement and within King himself. The creative license Johnson takes with historical events that many authors shy away from, and the sympathetic scrutiny he applies to King's private dreams, make this a novel well worth reading. (TH) I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb Reganbooks, 1998, 901 pp., $27.50 Lamb's weU...


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pp. 206-207
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