Author: Frank Nappi
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Published: November 1, 2005
Source: Downloaded when it was
free on Amazon.com
Read: September 19-21, 2012
In A Few Words: Powerful and poignant
My Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads: Add This to Your TBR Shelf
Now, Nappi has synthesized those reminiscences and crafted them into a heartwarming and at times harrowing novel: Echoes from the Infantry. It is the fictionalized tale of one Long Island veteran, the misery of combat, and the powerful emotional bond that connected him to his fiancée back home and that allowed him to survive the war with his soul battered but intact.
It is about a father and a son, and their ultimately redeeming struggle to understand the worlds that shaped each one--one a world at war, the other a world shaped by its veterans
A few months ago, I read and reviewed The Legend of Mickey Tussler, and Sophomore Campaign, both by Frank Nappi. You can read both of those reviews HERE So when I was emailing his publisher to thank them for letting me review the books and hold that giveaway, she asked me if I'd be interested in reviewing Echoes from the Infantry. When I said yes, she let me know that it just happened to be free to download on Amazon that day, so I went and downloaded it right away. And I'm so glad I did. Just like the first two books I read by Frank Nappi, this one is powerful and meaningful.
The story weaves itself throughout the present and the past as it goes along. In the present, James Mcleary has lost his wife, and is depressed, and his sons are trying to figure out what to do about him. In the past, we see small glimpses of James' life before the war, happy, carefree with Madeline. Then we live through what it was like for him in Germany, fighting the war, losing friends, the constant risk of losing his life. Then there's his life after the war. The war has taken its toll, physically and emotionally. He withdraws from life, he feels like he doesn't fit in, he can't process all the things he's done and seen.
Of course he moves on to a point, he still has a life to live, but it's almost as if he's not really there, a ghost of his former self. James is a creature of habit. He likes things regimented, and his way, mainly, he likes the control of that. And his kids do suffer for it, John most of all. John spends his childhood wishing for his fathers' approval and growing tired of his mother making excuses all the time.
The relationship between John and James is strained, at best, and Madeleine's death only makes it harder. John is the one who's left with the responsibility of cleaning out the house and it's while he's cleaning that he finds the letters his father sent to his mother during the war and gets to see a different side of his father.
The letters were one of my favorite things about this book. They are full of love, even hope in such desperate situations. They are a sharp contrast to the stoic, rocky, seemingly impassive character we are first presented with. And I think these letters are really what make the book so powerful. As you read them you have the same wondering thoughts that John does. "Who is this man and why have I never seen this side of him.?" At first the letters made me sad for John, because it's clear that it was this type of father that he's been looking for all this time, and the letters are a confusing juxtaposition to the man he's always known.
All throughout the book I found myself hoping that there would be some sort of redemption, some sort of peace that would come through it all. I won't spoil it, but I'm happy to say that it does happen, and John helps to bring it about.
In addition to the great writing, and the story itself, there is also excellent imagery. You can really feel the emotions of the characters as you read, see yourself in their situations. I love the scenes where the guys in James' platoon all talk about food to try and keep themselves warm with the thought of it in the cold winter nights.
This is an extremely powerful book about war, and the long lasting effect it can have on those who went through it and their families.