cover image The Call

The Call

Yannick Murphy. Harper Perennial, $14.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-202314-8

A triumph of quiet humor and understated beauty, Murphy's latest (after Signed, Mata Hari) takes the form of a diary belonging to veterinarian David Appleton, who recounts a year of converging perils: the slow grind of the recession, his worrying medical test results, a strange recurring vision, and the unwanted attention of a mysterious stranger. Then, when David's 12-year-old son, Sam, is shot in a hunting accident and winds up comatose, his family has every claim to despair; instead, they battle through, even as David's search for his son's shooter goes nowhere, and the stranger reveals a shocking, potentially life-altering secret. The trials of David's family are interposed with the calls he takes in his veterinary practice, in which he tends to sick sheep and injured horses with the same gentleness he shows his young children and exasperated but loving wife. These scenes evoke the dulcet cadences of life in a rural New England town, a place of stoicism and goodwill without the embroidery of folksy clich%C3%A9s. Murphy's subtle, wry wit and an appealing sense for the surreal leaven moments of anger and bleakness, and elevate moments of kindness, whimsy, and grace. (Aug.)