Cover Image: The Unwilling

The Unwilling

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Member Reviews

What a lovely storyteller John Hart is. I was drawn to this book by the time period, the synopsis of the plot, and by John Hart himself. And I wasn't disappointed - even though parts of the plot felt a little implausible, the majority of it felt completely grounded in the reality of the time. My heart broke for Jason, the son and brother whose life was irrevocably changed by his time and events in Vietnam. And for Gibby, his brother who is on the verge of graduating from high school but has already had to deal with far too many life upheavals, although he certainly has more to come as the book progresses. And my heart broke too for their father - trying to protect his broken wife, his younger son and his older one whom he's afraid may be beyond protection, or redemption. This is a story about family and love and how hard it can be to "do the right thing" when it's hard to see what the right thing may actually be. It's also a murder mystery. And while I found the villain to be over the top - upon reflection I wondered if he might be a bit of a personification of the government forces that wrecked Jason's life. Whether he was or not, I thought this was an excellent book. I listened to the audiobook, and the skilled narration definitely added to the book.
My thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan Audio for providing a copy for an unbiased review.
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I cannot review this book because it is audio which I cannot use. I’d be happy to review an email copy. I requested this book by mistake.
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This is not the typical mystery book that I would pick up. I didn't realize that it was more of a Historical Mystery until I actually started reading it. I requested it a good while ago, and know that I requested it for a good reason, so despite my initial misgivings, I gave it ago! It did take me a little bit to get interested in the story, as it was a slow start/slow build, but I am glad that I stuck in there and finished it, because I actually really enjoyed it!  The only thing that was a little off-putting for me was, would it have been possible for X to be able to do all of the things he did?  Maybe in those times...who knows!

It would be hard to classify this book as just one thing because it is so many things wrapped up in a neat little bow! It has mystery, it is a thriller, it is a coming of age story, it is historical fiction, it has family drama...overall excellent read!

I couldn't help but root for Gibby, and I think that's the way Hart intended it to be! He is the loveable little brother that already lost one brother to the war and isn't ready to give up on the other!

I am surprised that I enjoyed this book as much as I did, but in some ways I'm not because I've loved all the other books that I've read by John Hart, but I'm certainly glad that I've got it in my personal library now!

The narrator, Kevin Stillwell did a STELLAR job narrating this book! He is a narrator to watch out for! There are a few that I will grab books just because they are narrated by them, and I feel like he could quickly become one of those for me!

Overall, a bit of a slow start, but no disappointment at all!

I would like to thank the author, John Hart, the Publisher, Macmillan Audio, and Netgalley for providing me a copy of this book, The Unwilling in return for an honest and unbiased review!
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John Hart is an author that I buy his books the day they are released. As a matter of fact I preordered a signed copy of this book before I even started listening to it. He is that good! And this book is his absolute best.

Jason has just been released from prison. He has returned to his hometown just to see his little brother, Gibby. He has a complex relationship with his family. Heck, Jason is a very complex character. He is a Vietnam vet with a high kill rate and huge secrets.

Gibby is a high school senior. His mother has sheltered him from many activities and especially from Jason. When Jason shows back up in his life it opens a whole new world. Then, Tyra, Jason’s girlfriend, is murdered. Gibby is determined to prove that Jason is innocent.

There are so many intricacies in this story. The characters are amazing and believe it or not…Jason was my favorite. He broke my heart with his damaged self. But then he has such strength and intensity. I could not help but be pulled into his orbit.

Wow! Just Wow! I cannot say enough about this story. Captivating, thrilling, mysterious and mesmerizing are just a few words to describe this tale…I could go on and on! And the narrator, Kevin Stillwell is fantastic. He hit just the right level of intensity at the right time! Need a book you cannot put down or an audiobook you do not want to stop listening to…THIS IS IT! You will not be disappointed!

I received this audiobook from the publisher for a honest review.
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Completely unputdownable. The story grabs you right away and it's paced so well that there was never a dull moment, even when it was just about straight character development.

It's violent without being graphic (although tw for some body horror) and there's a respect that's given to the violence itself that makes sure that none of what's written here is for shock value. 

Jason and Gibbie are just fantastic characters. French is amazing too, and I saw him so clearly.

It's thrilling and brutal and dark and hopeful.

The audiobook narrator is Kevin Stillwell. It was a bit difficult at times to differentiate between the different (male) characters speaking, but the story makes up for it, and his voice is very pleasant. 

I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who likes thriller/suspense novels that will have you saying "Oh, oh NO, OH NO!" a whole bunch while listening/reading.

I received a copy of this audiobook for free from NetGalley and Macmillan Audio in exchange for an honest, voluntary review.
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The perfect novel. I love a good mystery thriller, but this one is terrific. John Hart has woven together an epic, powerful drama that is so much more than a crime drama.

In a letter to readers, Hart gives us a brief and enlightening peek in to his intent writing The Unwilling. All his ideas, passions and goals with this book were fully realized, in my own opinion.

There are so many really well told stories through the these deeply developed characters, it would be nearly impossible to list them all. Gibby's coming of age story against a backdrop of a war that took the life of one brother and permanently scarred the life of the other, Jason; his disconnected mother, his father- desperate to be connected; the good and bad in law enforcement; the very human qualities possessed by  of violent, depraved men that exist to feed on the souls and weaknesses of others-- just some of the puzzle pieces assembled here by the author.

What elevated this book for me, was that above the horrors that are revealed, the themes of family, human connection, and the unwavering desire for truth drive this fascinating story. 

I will be recommending this book for years to come.

In the audiobook production of The Unwilling, Kevin Stillwell provides an excellent voice to the narrative. Very well done.

I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This is the first book I've read by [author:John Hart|47072] and I was impressed. I enjoyed his writing style and his ability to draw me into the story without rushing things and also without letting it drag. 

I wouldn't put this one in the mystery genre because you are well aware of who all the players are. I would call it suspenseful and a coming of age story. I worried about several of the characters at different times. The book was pretty dark and I'm sure that most of characters were traumatized at some point. Yet, it didn't go too far. It wasn't so graphic that you couldn't read it and the characters didn't feel one dimensional. 

I find that some authors write characters to be fully good or bad. I find it frustrating when the bad guy is unattractive, slovenly, rude, unkind, unintelligent, etc, etc. Most people have some redeeming qualities. Or at least they believe they do. I really liked that Hart was able to flesh out his characters enough that you may have an evil person, but he is known for keeping his word and is really intelligent. The bad guys aren't easily tripped up by the good guys just because they're the good guys. Even the good guys aren't 100% good. They have issues, make mistakes, and struggle with decisions. Overall, this made the characters and the story more realistic and well-rounded. The only acceptation to this may be Gibby's mom, however she was a smaller player in the story. I do wish she was fleshed out a bit more though. 

I thought this books was really well done and I look forward to reading more of Hart's work in the future. 

I received the audio edition of this book, which was narrated by Kevin Stillwell. He did an excellent job. The voices were distinguishable, but again didn't feel like caricatures. I would definitely listen to more of his narration
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I have listened to several John Hart books and honestly feel for me, this is the best way to “read” his stories.  In all honesty when I start one of his books, I always wonder if I will actually like it.  John Hart is the ultimate writer of a slow build read, however once I am about 1/4th into the book, I am hooked.  This story was set in the past (1972) and John Hart himself says this is the first book he has written from the past.  It is set in Charlotte, NC which is where I have lived for many years, so from that point of view, it was another plus.  It is about war, a family fractured by what happens at war, and how this affects the whole family.This is a story of light and dark, black, white and gray, at times so uncomfortable that I wanted to fast forward, but didn’t, and yet it is such a good story that I felt all the feels as well as being so glad I listened to it.  Kevin Stillwell is the narrator for this book but I don’t remember having listened to his narration before.  Having said that, I had no trouble figuring out who the different characters were once I knew the cast.  Fortunately, for me, he had a smooth, even voice so that  when things were going bad, I still kept listening.  As always, John Hardy writes a wonderful thriller and kept me enjoying to this story.
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John Hart writes books that can be hard to read because they deal with subjects that are difficult and this book was no exception.

Gibby lost one brother to Vietnam and the other came home a broken, misunderstood man.  Since Gibby is the last son still at home, his parents are super protective and try to shield Gibby from Jason.

Jason does his best to keep Gibby away from what surrounds him, but one day changes that all.  It starts as a fun day and escalates when a prison bus passes his car.

People are out to get Jason and Gibby is the only one that believe in Jason.

In the end, there will be murder, mystery and a hard won respect.

5 stars
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The Unwilling by John Hart
Narrated by: Kevin Stillwell
Publication Date: February 2, 2021
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Description from NetGalley...
“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.”
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Thank you to @NetGalley @macmillan.audio @stmartinspress for the ALC in return for my honest review.
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My thoughts...
This is my first book from John Hart, and wow, was this a good psychological thriller. This book was set in the Southern U.S. during the height of the Vietnam War. This was one of those I’m glad I listened to the audiobook, even though sometimes the narrator sounded flat, but where it mattered the narration was great. So what we had here was a coming-of-age that fast-tracked Gibby to adulthood, a family drama that turned into a scary story and an ex-Marine who was an ex-prisoner, who went back to prison because “X” wanted him back there - he’s named “X” because his real name was Axel or it could be because he killed 10 men. A coming of age that became a blood-bath, turned police-procedural that ended into a spine-chilling ending.
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I absolutely fell in love with this book. The character development was above and beyond. I love it when an author makes you feel like you know the characters, and you want to see them succeed and find happiness. I felt this story all the way through. There were parts when I literally felt my heart drop from worrying about the outcome for these characters. The storyline was unique and so well done. The writing was amazing and real. Hart didn’t sugarcoat things and work around hard topics, he just put it all out there. I can’t recommend this one enough.
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Not a book about the Vietnam war and the battles fought in it but about the boys who became men when they returned and the ones who feared the draft that would send them into the War. Gibby doesn’t fear the draft like his best friend does. He had a brother die in the war and another who volunteered to serve. But when his brother finally returned home after a dishonorable discharge his parents don’t want him around his brother. He had been doing drugs and got himself put into prison. They don’t trust Jason and believe he will only cause harm to the only good son they have left. This electrifying novel tells a story of what happens when Gibby does see his brother and what happens if his parents were right.

  I absolutely loved this book. I finished it within two days and was hooked onto every word. I like that this story had the background of the Vietnam war. It provided a backstory that drove a lot of the tension within the story, but it’s mainly about the person Jason has become after and the people he has got himself entangled with because of the path he had chosen. 

  There is so much in this book that gives it the thrill genre. A lot of it is pretty dark but that’s what kept this book so entertaining. It’s truly like no other book I have read before. Through the book you are gaining more and more insight into Jason’s life and the people who are after him. If this book was simply about Jason it would not have been as good of a book, but it was also about some pretty bad people and the innerworkings of a dangerous criminal and how he uses the corrupt cops inside the prisons his in to do his dirty work.  This criminal does all he can to ruin the life of Jason and to get exactly what he wants, get Jason back into prison. He frames Jason with murder and frames Gibby as well. There are many different agenda’s that different gangs have. Gibby gets himself tied into a lot of messes as he tried to discover the truth about his brother’s past. All I can say is I was never bored.

  I listened to the audio version of this book and I liked and disliked the reading. The readers voice was smooth and got me engaged into the story. The book was narrated by one man, but he did good changing his voice to the characters who was talking. One thing that got me confused a few times is the amount of times the perspective changes. The book is written in first person by Gibby’s point of view but most of the other character have third person limited sections in the book. I liked this from a story point of view because it always was changing the story up. This helped me not to get bored of just one person problems or perspective. It was always going from person to person at the best times so you can read about all the thrilling moments. I did really like all the perspectives, but with the audio version it was hard to tell when this shift was made. So, all the sudden it would be on one person and then switch to another. There was no indication this shift was made so the only way to realize it was when you were suddenly hearing different names or a different situation then you were just reading about. I’m sure there was some type of marker in the physical book to mark this change, but it was hard to indicate in the audio. This wasn’t a big challenge for me because I was able to pick it up soon after because there was some indication in the words but if I wasn’t paying attention, I might get lost. 

  I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. It’s not one specific thing but just the overall enjoyment of the book. It’s nothing overly special I just think it was really well written and developed. All the characters had their own personality and you got attached to all of the different plot points. And I really like how it ended. All I can say is that it came full circle. I would recommend if you can handle some gruesome details, but it was a unique read. 

Trigger Warning: Drinking, War, Details of a bloody murder, Abuse of women, and Kidnapping.
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I loved this tender but suspenseful novel. The unwilling was a story about brothers and fathers and sons. It was about the past, mistakes, forgiveness, and love. It was thrilling but rooted in family. Unlike any thriller, I’ve read in a long time. I loved the writing style and how Gibby learned about his brother's life and transgressions. I loved Jason’s commitment to Gibby and his father. Jason’s willingness to see his failures and his struggle with his inner self made his character likable and true. A great read. Thank you @macmillan.audio and @netgalley for my advanced copy.
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This is more like a three and a half star book, but I’m rounding up because I think that people who really enjoy thrillers will appreciate it. 
Based on the description, I expected a different book, one that focused more on the ramifications of sending young men to war and being unable to accept what comes home. There was a little of that, but it’s definitely more on the periphery. 
The first half of the story is a family drama. The French family is forced to confront their demons when black sheep son, and war criminal, Jason, is released from prison. His father distrusts him, his mother has disowned him, and his younger brother is desperate to know him. 
The second half becomes a thriller when Jason’s girlfriend ends up dead. A slew of nefarious characters are introduced and some cat and mouse games ensue. 
I happened to prefer the first half but altogether, it was an entertaining read. 
Thanks to #netgalley and #stmartinspress for this ARC of #theunwilling in exchange for an honest review.
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Let me start my review with this quote from the blurb about this book. "This is crime fiction at its most raw, an exploration of family and the past, of prison and war and the indelible marks they leave."

This was a dark and unsettling story of a family dealing with PTSD, loss of a child in a war, addiction, secrets and pain. It is also a story about a man with money, lots of money, that enables him to hire people to do whatever he wants them to do, even if it is against the law. The one thing he wanted most of all, he was unable to get, but he would die trying. The French family has suffered. Gibby's parents will do whatever they can to keep him away from his convict brother, also a war criminal, Jason. When Gibby and Jason get together for an afternoon of partying, one action starts an avalanche of events that result in bloodshed, torture, arrests, kidnapping and more

This is my first John Hart book, but will probably be my last. Not that it was not a well-written story, but it was much too violent for my taste. The story is told from Gibby’s point of view. Gibby wants to prove his brother's innocence in a murder and begins his own investigation with his friend, Chance, and the girl he is getting involved with, Becky. His investigation takes him to some dangerous places, meeting drug dealers, motorcycle gangs and others who will do anything to keep Gibby from discovering a lot of secrets. He is in danger, but won't back down. I liked both Gibby's and Jason's characters. They were relatable characters who would do whatever they could to help their siblings. Chance was Gibby's friend and was one that went above and beyond friendship as you will see when you read this one. I felt for the family and their friends and my heart broke many times. The part that has the reader suspending belief is the serial killer "X" who rules the prison from death row. He has everyone in his pocket and his hired killers on the outside are also a bit over the top. So, I am not sure how to rate this one, because parts are heartbreaking, others just gory and bloodthirsty and some unbelievable.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Kevin Stillwell. His voice and expression definitely added even more atmosphere to this story. I think that was the reason I was able to finish this one, as his voice mesmerized me as I listened. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a well plotted, intense mystery. Remembering that there is a lot of violence and lots of triggers as well. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Kevin Stillwell. His voice and expression definitely added even more atmosphere to this story.
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After seeing a really good review from a friend of mine, I decided to listen to it. This is my first John Hart book so I had no expectations. My first impression when I got the audio book was that it was long, 15 hrs....let me tell you...you'll find excuses to keep listening and never putting it down. The 15hrs went by flying! There's so much going on and you have no idea how everything will unfold. It was a GREAT book. Definitely will recommend it! 

The narrator does a great job with the different character's voices. 

Thank you Macmillan audio, John Hart and Netgalley for the ARC!
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This book is filled with chilling, disturbing, unfathomable events in the lives of what should be ordinary people, this book will grab hold of you and not let go. 
The story about two brothers will have you wanting more. This writing is like none I've ever seen!
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This was quite an interesting audio book. The narration was done very well and the story, though at times felt lengthy, kept me wanting to know more. I found myself wishing it would move along, but I didn’t lose interest.

Though I couldn’t always understand the various reactions from the characters, I kept listening. I felt the need to delve deeper and discover the whys. This family drama revolved around the Vietnam War and that time in history.

It was about a family fractured by one son who went to war and suffered the damage that can psychologically accompany it. And a younger son who they are working hard to protect from all that will harm him, which includes his brother.

When a woman is found tortured and found dead, the police of course look for a killer who is sick enough to torture. The easy path is to turn toward Jason, the young man who recently returned from Vietnam. It makes it easier to point the finger at him since he returning home with a dishonorable discharge. But his younger brother, who has always looked up to Jason, is determined to prove Jason’s innocence.

The story has twists and turns that take the investigation into some dangerous areas. But in the end some eye-opening things are discovered.

My Concerns
Though this story definitely left me with lots to think about, at times it was slow. I’m not sure if a good ending was enough to carry the story. However, I did enjoy it.

What I Liked
The narration was very well done. And I liked that there were underlying things that caused me to look a little deeper into some of my own preconceived notions.

The story was memorable, for sure.

My thanks to #NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book and the ability to post my opinion.
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This book was a cross between a thriller, coming of age novel and horror story. Gibby has already lost one brother, and now another brother arrives back from Vietnam, goes to jail, is released and then all hell breaks loose. Gibby fights to avenge his brother when all others had given up. This was a disturbing book on many levels. Very well written. 
** thank you to NetGalley for the ARC
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Hart is a skillful writer who definitely creates a realistic atmosphere.  When Jason returns to his family after serving a stint in prison and serving in Vietnam, the tension begins and doesn't dissipate throughout the story.  The theme of brotherhood permeates this book.  The main character struggles in his attempt to reconnect with his family.  Yet, that sentiment conveys masterfully the love that struggle can't totally corrupt.
Jason brings home the trauma of war in all aspects.  The plot is dark and that darkness is ever-present in the story.  It touches on so many subjects.  Guns, drugs, immorality and good and bad choices are all taken apart.  Loss tears apart and, ultimately, reunites.  Secrets are ever-present as are lies.  I felt. the harshness because Hart did such a great job of conveying all those feelings.
The narrator in the audiobook did a measured, on-target reading of the text.  This is my first introduction to this author and I can't wait to start another.
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