cover image A Beckoning War

A Beckoning War

Matthew Murphy. Baraka Books (IPG, dist.), $24.95 trade paper (330p) ISBN 978-1-77186-068-0

Through the eyes of a young Canadian infantry officer, Murphy's debut gives readers a view into the horrors of battle in WWII and also into the pain of those who were left behind at home. Jim McFarlane signs up for service partly to escape his teaching job and troubled marriage and partly to prove that he is as brave as his younger brother, who is in the Air Force. Jim's wife, Marianne, pleads with him not to go overseas, but once he decides to enlist, there is no turning back. Any romantic notions Jim had of the war are quickly dispelled by the reality of it: the mind-numbing wait in the muddy trenches, exploding shells that bring sudden death, and the uncertainty of when to attack or retreat. Although he is promoted to officer, Jim suffers from a paralyzing fear that can only be quelled by alcohol, even in the thick of battle. Murphy has a poetic style that at times follows Hemingway's stream-of-consciousness path into a shell-shocked soldier's fevered dreams. He vividly and movingly tells the story of many frightened young men who went off to fight what they thought would be a glorious war but found only pain and suffering. (May)