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Above the Water
Reviews

"Jody Ferguson makes great use of this unique city as a backdrop to his story of war, love, and loss...."

Jody Ferguson makes great use of this unique city as a backdrop to his story of war, love, and loss... colorfully drawing characters who, like Shanghai itself, are desperately seeking a way out of one world and into the next.

James Carter, Author Champions Day: The End of Old Shanghai

"...his description of the battles is captivating and masterful, exhibiting his extensive knowledge of this time in world history. And through it all, he has woven this enchanting story of two lovers who never stop loving each other though war has ripped them and their worlds apart."

In the months leading up to World War II, a young newspaper journalist reporting from Shanghai, China gets called back to the States to serve in the U.S. Marines as the drumbeat of war with Japan grows more threatening. However, Harry Dietrichson, the journalist, has fallen in love with Viktoria, a Russian living in Shanghai with her uncle and aunt as emigres from the Bolshevik revolution. He asks Viktoria to come with him to the States. Viktoria is genuinely torn in her decision, but decides she must remain behind with her aunt and uncle who will need her help as conditions in China are already deteriorating from the Japanese encroachment. Heartbroken and somewhat angered, Harry departs for home, never expecting to see Viktoria again.

 

Thus our story begins and soon takes us through some of the most rugged battles of the Pacific as the Americans fight their way toward the island of Japan. Herein the writer shows both his mastery of history and of the craft of writing. Author Jody Ferguson describes the gore of battle and the slogging minutiae of life on the God-forsaken islands of Guadalcanal, New Gloucester, Peleliu and Okinawa as if he were a veteran on the ground. Even though he takes us through these four major battles, never do we feel any repetitiveness of action or even emotion. Each battle has its own distinctive events, feels, smells, sights and strategies.Through it all, our central character, Harry, realizes his continued love for his lost Viktoria.

 

Every other chapter or so, Mr. Ferguson takes us back to Shanghai where we see Viktoria and learn how she and her family are faring with the onerous Japanese presence. Ferguson withholds none of the fear and deprivation of living in this occupied city. After Okinawa and the conquest of Japan, Harry finagles a military assignment that returns him to Shanghai. There he begins the search for his beloved Viktoria.


The writing is superb, poetic and historically authentic. Mr. Ferguson has done his homework. His depiction of wartime Shanghai with its eclectic classes of people adapting to the Japanese occupation reads with chilling accuracy. As already indicated, his description of the battles is captivating and masterful, exhibiting his extensive knowledge of this time in world history. And through it all, he has woven this enchanting story of two lovers who never stop loving each other though war has ripped them and their worlds apart.

Steve Warren, Author & Playwright The Confessions of Davy Crockett

"From its vivid portrayal of Russian expatriate life in China to his stark scenes of men in combat in Guadalcanal, Ferguson makes us feel we know these people, and their fates are bound up in our own."

One of the magical things about fiction is its ability to transport us to distant lands and bygone times, and to make us eagerly turn pages to follow the lives of characters whose concerns are so similar to our own. Jody Ferguson’s Above the Water does just this in the tradition of great historical novels, giving us the star-crossed lovers Harry and Victoria, separated in Japanese-occupied Shanghai in 1941 and yearning for each other over time.

 

From its vivid portrayal of Russian expatriate life in China to his stark scenes of men in combat in Guadalcanal, Ferguson makes us feel we know these people, and their fates are bound up in our own. The author’s extensive background in Russia and East Asia lends a rare authenticity to the worlds he surveys.

Russell Working, Author The Irish Martyr

"Jody Ferguson's novel drew me in and fed me, plus I learned much about war and history, and I'm glad of it...Above the Water is engaging and educational, and you'll feel its thrum on your emotions as well." 

I didn’t expect to enjoy Jody Ferguson’s novel. The overarching story is set during World War II in the Pacific theater, with a male protagonist finding his way back to a lost love in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. It seemed like it would be too history-bound and oppressive. I’m not one for war strategy, blood and guts, and untimely death.

 

But then I turned the pages and loved the novel, because it resonated for me on multiple levels. That was an unexpected surprise. I seek emotional content in fiction, much more so than plot or action, although those certainly are well-established here. Well-written complex characters also are important to me, because they can teach me so much about being human and living a life with integrity. I am impressed by characters, even those only briefly on the page, who are fully realized and possibly unpredictable yet believable. I care about them because they are on the page and real.

 

Jody Ferguson’s novel drew me in and fed me, plus I learned much about war and history, and I’m glad of it. Jody wrote the battles and descriptions of life as a soldier with depth and artistry. It all felt dreadful and intolerable. The characters’ relationships and the bonds they formed and sometimes broke are genuine and touching. Harry, the protagonist, is a young man growing up the hard way, and I rooted for him, along with his lost love, Viktoria. Her diary entries explain the privations she and her family endured and clearly speak her love for Harry. Above the Water is engaging and educational, and you’ll feel its thrum on your emotions as well.

Dana Frank, Author The Moon Can Tell

D.C. Hollmann, JD

"The book opens up an era—the Far East just before the start of World War II and what happened after the bombing of Pearl Harbor—in a way that lets us appreciate our fathers and grandfathers and what they did to survive the greatest challenge of their lives."

The author tells a gripping tale about two people—Harry, a young American newsman who thought he had lost the woman he loved, and Viktoria, the young Russian woman who dreamed of seeing him again—by weaving their stories together through flashbacks and the letters she wrote but never sent. She was pregnant when he left Shanghai in 1941, but Harry didn’t know it. When he returns at war’s end, he finds out he is the father of a fine young boy.

The descriptions of prewar Shanghai with all its filth and beauty, vistas and stench, are matched by Ferguson’s ability to convey the camaraderie of men at war and the love of families: Harry’s at home in Houston and Viktoria’s in Shanghai. The book opens up an era—the Far East just before the start of World War II and what happened after the bombing of Pearl Harbor—in a way that lets us appreciate our fathers and grandfathers and what they did to survive the greatest challenge of their lives.

D.C. Hollmann, Attorney

"World-spanning and time-spanning story of war and love..."

An old-fashioned (in the good sense) world-spanning and time-spanning story of war and love, bolstered by the author’s breadth of knowledge about Pacific battlefields and the cosmopolitan richness of life in Shanghai before World War II.

Stephen Harrigan, Author Remember Ben Clayton