Book Review: The Unwilling

Unsettle the mind; destroy the balance. Destroy the balance; obliterate the man.

John Hart ~ The Unwilling


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. But then a woman known to Jason turns up brutally murdered.

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.


Families can be difficult. Each one experiences heartbreak, struggles and disagreements. Some are laughed off and forgotten. Others run deep.

The Unwilling looks at the impact certain events can have on a family and how they shape them for years to come. On the surface, it’s a gritty crime novel, brutal and graphic in places. It’s full of drugs, torture and sadistic intention. Yet at the same time it manages to portray a realistic insight into the bonds of brothers.

I think this is what makes it so engaging. As readers we may not be able to relate to war, prison and endless abuse. But we can relate to unfairly judging others, sibling rivalry and parental expectations.

This is a difficult book to read, but its descriptive narrative really shows the dark, corrupt nature of prisons and the state of America during the Vietnam War. Young men feared the draft and what it would lead to. Glory? Pride? Pain? Even death.

In this story, one brother is killed; the other comes back disgraced and ends up in prison. The youngest remains, overprotected by his parents and left confused by who he is and the conflicting emotions he has towards his brothers and parents.

Parts of it are perhaps slightly far fetched, as I very much doubt the youngest brother and his friend would have managed to survive and escape the ordeals they faced.

That said, it’s well-written, engaging and shocking. Hart manages to weave two stories together and, despite the grizzly events, leaves the reader feeling that maybe, there is still hope.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I received a copy of this book from Bonnier Books. All opinions my own.

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