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Extended Audio Sample The Coldest Night, by Robert Olmstead Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.00296735905045 out of 53.00296735905045 out of 53.00296735905045 out of 53.00296735905045 out of 53.00296735905045 out of 5 3.00 (337 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Robert Olmstead Narrator: Richard Poe Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2012 ISBN: 9781464038341
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The recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and the Heartland Prize for his fiction, Robert Olmstead crafts riveting prose about love, war, and the human condition.

Henry Childs is just seventeen when he falls into a love affair so intense it nearly consumes him. But when young Mercy’s disapproving father threatens Henry’s life, Henry runs as far as he can—to the other side of the world.

The time is 1950, and the Korean War hangs in the balance. Henry, descended from a long line of soldiers, enlists in the marines and arrives in Korea on the eve of the brutal seventeen-day battle of the Chosin Reservoir—the turning point of the war—completely unprepared for the forbidding Korean landscape and the unimaginable circumstances of a war well beyond the scope of anything his ancestors ever faced. But the challenges he meets upon his return home, scarred and haunted, are greater by far.

Robert Olmstead’s riveting new novel is not only a passionate story of love and war but also a timeless story of soldiers coming home to a country with little regard for, and even less knowledge of, what they’ve confronted. Through his hero, Olmstead reveals an unspoken truth about combat: that for many men, the experience of war is the most enlivening, electric, and extraordinary experience of their lives.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The no-rush gait, the unadorned yet unambiguous description, the resonant alliteration…This is the kind of sentence that warms The Coldest Night and makes you wonder if Olmstead was meant to be a poet. But Olmstead is a novelist, and a very good one…It’s his depiction of war’s less monstrous aspects—the continuous repositioning of troops and reshuffling of strongholds, the ceaseless anticipation of surprise attacks, the unmitigated exhaustion—that steadily unsettles…These lines lend a humanity to war that descriptions of guts and gore alone cannot.” 

    New York Times Book Review

  • The Coldest Night is riveting, thoughtful and—in the large section set in Korea—harrowing…Olmstead is an immensely gifted stylist, his prose capable of conveying the magic and passion of first love as well as the ferocity of battle. He also has a knack for imagery as memorable as it is unexpected…Few write as powerfully or as realistically as Olmstead about the way war makes a boy grow up far too fast.” 

    Washington Post

  • “Working-class boy meets rich girl, and forbidden passion flares, in this thought-provoking, unabashedly romantic novel set in the 1950s.” 

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2012
  • Selected for the April 2012 Indie Next List
  • A 2012 Kirkus Reviews Top 25 Book for Fiction
  • An Amazon Top 100 Book of 2012

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cat Mckaig | 2/19/2014

    " The settings changed a bit abruptly, but I did like the way the characters were built over time. The ending was a bit mystifying..... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jeff | 2/19/2014

    " Phenomenal prose. This was the first novel I have read that takes place during the Korean war. That being said, the plot was not particularly engaging for me. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tiffany | 2/18/2014

    " I found this book to be rather strange, however it did offer great insight into a soldiers mind (despite the fact that it's a fictional story) I grew up with a father who was greatly damaged by the Vietnam war but would never share with me why or how it affected him. This book gave me a glimpse into what that experience could have been like and why perhaps it would be to painful to recount. I appreciated this insight although the book itself meandered without resolve in its entirety. At least it went pretty quickly. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Elizabeth | 2/2/2014

    " Good idea just didn't quite deliver "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karleene | 1/28/2014

    " Wonderful prose. Many sentences to stop and reread "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jackie | 1/21/2014

    " Chilling descriptions of battle in the Korean War juxtaposed with a story of first love. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Annie | 1/14/2014

    " Robert Olmstead writes with an uncommon understanding of the human heart. His prose is as clear and cutting as a shard of glass and he tells a story that is haunting, heartbreaking and unforgettable "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laurie | 1/14/2014

    " This was a great book but it ended too quickly! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wwalztoni | 1/9/2014

    " So well written I didn't mind the jamming together of two pretty disparate stories. While the connection is pretty threadbare the tapestry of emotions and mental images are not. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kita | 12/16/2013

    " Olmstead's writing is sparse and powerful and the book is a good reminder of the psychological toll of war (in this case, the Korean war.) However, I didn't find myself as attached to the characters and the story as I felt I should have. I'd give it 3 1/2 stars. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Vanessa | 11/30/2013

    " Gave me a greater appreciation for what my father-in-law must have experienced as a young Marine fighting the Korean War. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nancy | 9/17/2013

    " I would call this a Faction Book. Novel based on facts. Rated on the downside because of the language/sex, but we are reading about the Korean War. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Diane | 2/23/2013

    " Boy Book! Teen girlfriend with insatiable sex drive! One of the worst battles of the Korean War! Sloppy, sentimental ending! Part of a trilogy that started with "Coal Black Horse." "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Ann Holland | 1/23/2013

    " Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love and run away though why or to what end we're never sure. Boy loses girl. Boy joins Army and fights in Korean War. Boy comes home, finds girl and child. The End. Really? Do not understand the good reviews. Was very disappointed. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Leslie | 12/27/2012

    " A good book. Olmstead is graphic in his war stories, but they are very real. He also writes beautifully. Left a bit hanging at the end, but an excellent read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 TKieninger | 10/28/2012

    " I found myself skipping most of the war section, mainly because I wasn't interested, not because it wasn't well written. The ending was unexpected and abrupt. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Brenda | 10/12/2012

    " Well-written tragic plot. No spoilers here -- just read it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Judy | 9/23/2012

    " I actually did not finish this one - The first chapter read like prologue - the pace continued plodding, slow with too much narrative for my reading pleasure. The premise and possibility exists but I am returning this to the library. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Greg | 9/9/2012

    " The style of this novel was very minimalistic. Short sentences. Short chapters. Wandering thoughts. But I really enjoyed it. Part 2 was set in Korea and was absolutely fascinating. I really couldn't put it down. "

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About the Author
Author Robert Olmstead

Robert Olmstead is an award-winning author and educator. His novel Coal Black Horse was the winner of the Heartland Prize for Fiction. His other fiction work includes America By Land, A Trail of Heart’s Blood Wherever We Go, Far Bright Star, and Soft Water. Olmstead is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and an NEA  grant. Along with his fiction work, he has also written a textbook for fiction-writing workshops and a nonfiction memoir, Stay Here With Me. He is currently director of the creative writing program at Ohio Wesleyan University. Previously, he served as Senior Writer in Residence at Dickinson College and as director of the creative writing program at Boise State University.