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Review: Son of a Basque
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Thursday, July 28, 2022


Author: Mark B. Arrieta

Publisher: Crystal Woods Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-955862-04-2

In 1998, Mark B. Arrieta passed away, and several years later, his wife Betty succumbed to lung cancer. When Betty's daughter Dorothy Stangle and her granddaughter Deborah Driggs were digging through her belongings, they came upon Mark's manuscript. As it turned out, it was the fictionalized autobiography of Mark's life.

You probably never heard of Mark Arrieta. However, Dorothy and Deborah determined his story needed to be told. The result was the Son of a Basque.

Mark has quite a life to recount, and his story is a streamlined, detailed, and layered picture of his several experiences and encounters..

The  narrative strings together Mark's accomplishments in striking episodes to form a cohesive, fascinating whole. His goals, challenges, triumphs, misfortunes, losses, and treatment of several crises are vividly described.

Born in Delta, Colorado, in 1924, Mark was the eldest child of Mary and Miguel Arrieta. Miguel was of Basque descent; Mary's parents were half Comanche Indian, one-third Kiowa, and the rest Spanish.

Sadly, when Mark was ten, his father died and he was pushed into breadwinner and head of his family. During his childhood and adolescence, and with his younger siblings, he toiled the beet fields of Colorado. His character, according to Mark, was formed in his early years, doing the work of a man, going to school only when the beet harvesting had been done.

The Depression-era was demanding for the family, as they barely could bring in ample money to survive and settle their debts.

At sixteen, Mark left home and set off for California, traveling the hazardous rails and even one time suffering from frostbite. Survival included making do with one sandwich that would last him hundreds of miles.

In California, he found several jobs, and in 1937, he enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps, administered by the U.S. Army. The experience would provide the basis for his twenty-four-year career in the military.

His first assignment was with the forest service. As Mark remarks, his involvement in the forest service turned out to be what he needed to get through the rest of his life.

Mark entered the U.S. Army Air Corps when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. During World War II, he survived several bombing missions. Unfortunately, during his tour in Pearl Harbor, he witnessed his entire flight crew shot down and losing his best friend.

In England, during the war, he met and married his wife Betty, eventually settling in the USA, where the couple raised their family of three children, Dorthy, Mark Jr., and Jeffrey.

One of Mark's civilian positions included employment as a prison guard in San Quentin, where barbarous and appalling violence was commonplace.

Mark also served in Viet Nam, and  his last military assignment was head of security for a new airstrip, where he faced  near-death episodes.

As he reflects on his life, Mark reminds us that "a man's life is like a mountain range; there are high points and low points, with long stretches in between level places."

One benefit of reading about someone, who is not a household name, is that the sum of their adventures in whatever cropped up in their life affords us with a different perspective on living and enjoying our own lives.

In Mark's engaging narrative, we learn about one man's gripping coming of age who discovers himself as several scenarios unfold. He effectively engages first the reader's curiosity and then affection.

What stands out is Mark's avoidance of exhausting narrative sprawl, which separates it from many of today's autobiographies that seem to be sold more for weight than substance.

It is a shame that Mark never lived to see the publication of his novel. As he explains in his winding up paragraph, "Some of us are so moved by our life experiences that we are driven by some inner need to write them down, leaving our words for future generations to read and thereby know us."

Follow Here To Read Norm's Interview With Mark B. Arrieta's granddaughter, Deborah  Driggs

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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