From Publishers Weekly
Liz and Mike O'Reilly's marriage weathers the Vietnam War in Farrington's fourth novel (after The Monk Downstairs
), a well-crafted but somewhat timeworn story about a military family's stoicism in the field and on the home front. Capt. Michael O'Reilly, USMC, ships out from Okinawa for Da Nang, while back home in Detroit, where the streets are afire from the 1967 riots, a pregnant Liz struggles alone to raise their four children. Mike is "turned toward battle like a plant toward the sun," but Liz quietly curses the Marine Corp and draws on hidden reserves of strength to be a good Catholic wife and mother. As commander of a beleaguered company in Vietnam, Mike is badly wounded and further strains the marriage when he returns to combat instead of coming home. Meanwhile, a near miscarriage in her third trimester almost costs Liz her life, but she decides to keep the baby rather than guarantee her own survival. Farrington's graceful prose moves the engaging narrative along at a brisk clip, but tough, noble Mike and tough, big-hearted Liz remain mired in type. The result is a compassionate but unambitious novel about enduring marital love and family ties during wartime from an author who was willing to take greater risks in his earlier works.
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Farrington's urgent, moving narrative turns the war novel on its head. It's 1967, and while Mike O'Reilly, a career marine, is getting shot at in Vietnam, his wife, Lizzie, is dodging domestic shrapnel: she's two months into an unplanned pregnancy, she flinches every time the doorbell rings, and her four children, at school, are hearing that their father is a baby-killer. While Mike's active-duty letters, full of mud and gore, form part of the story, it is Farrington's unsparing account of Lizzie's life at home—the desperately untidy house, her small attempts to carve out time for herself, her mounting anxiety—that takes the novel beyond its particular time and place and makes it a captivating study of tenderness and blame.
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