Midwest Book Review

Son of a Basque
Mark B. Arrieta and Deborah Driggs
Crystal Woods Publishing
9781955862042, $16.95
Available in the October 2022 issue of the Midwest Book Review

Son of a Basque is introduced by Mark B. Arrieta’s daughter, Dorothy Stangle, who explains that this posthumous novel reflects a family legacy, as it is loosely based on her father’s experiences and explores his life, prejudices and honors.

Mark B. Arrieta passed in 1998, but his story lives on, both in this book and in its impact on his family’s memories and knowledge of family history. It now holds an additional opportunity for readers to absorb the life of a young man who was ten years old in 1928, and whose world evolved to embrace the war that would lead him into the military and uncharted territory.

From an unexpected romance which develops in the midst of his enlistment to a Basque family’s determination, love, and special brand of perseverance, family connections are profiled in a story that is outstanding in its exploration of culture, heritage, and connections.

Readers who anticipate a coming-of-age or wartime saga alone will find that while Son of a Basque embraces both of these facets, it’s real strength lies in family relationship probes that explore Basque culture and its lasting impact on future generations.

Via the narrator’s separation from wife and children as he performs his military duties to the lingering aftermath of threat when the war ends (“Later, a Japanese soldier gave himself up to the American patrol group, telling the intelligence officer during an interview that he and some other surviving Japanese soldiers had been instructed never to surrender. He was unaware that the war had ended and had been living in the jungle and going to the beaches late at night to catch fish to survive. If I’d known that any Japanese soldiers were still alive and living in the jungles, I would never have taken my boys and left them on the deserted beaches at night.”), readers learn of a life well lived, centered on family and embracing the impact of a military career on all family members.

Deborah Driggs is the granddaughter of Miguel Arrieta. Mark B. Arrieta wrote this book in tribute to his father, a famous Basque bullfighter.

Its wide-ranging scope, from World War II to the Vietnam War, explores how families evolve and handle the rigors of life changes.

Son of a Basque is a legacy to his family, but to their credit and publishing efforts, it’s now also a legacy for fiction readers who enjoy stories based on true life, accounts of military and civilian experiences, and the efforts of a man who proved a hero to his family in so many different ways.

Libraries seeking novels that explore all these facets, from family ties to Basque heritage and the generations that receive this gift of cultural identity, will find Son of a Basque a solid work of compelling explorations.