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The Call: A Novel Paperback – August 2, 2011

3.8 out of 5 stars 109 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Its peculiar charm eludes easy categorization. . . . With its combination of Yankee stoicism and offhand poetry, the book conveys the slightly archaic feel of a biblical parable, a real accomplishment in today’s hyper-contemporary fictional landscape. All told, The Call is definitely worth answering.” (Washington Post)

“Remarkable. . . . The truthful evocation of family is the real triumph of ‘The Call’. There is much love in this novel, and just as much truth about the pain and pleasure of family life. . . . [A] clever and beautiful book.” (Boston Globe)

“Displaying an almost magical economy. . . . The Call conjures the quirky satisfactions of rural life . . . true heroism is revealed in the humanity of a taciturn and decent man.” (People (4 stars))

“Wondrously dynamic. . . . A warm-hearted paean to family devotion.” (Wall Street Journal)

“Undeniably fascinating. . . . Yannick Murphy’s The Call is a one-of-a-kind story…filled with forthright, understated prose reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s.” (The Daily Beast)

“Murphy pays close attention to the sensual and the macabre. . . . In the quotidian details of farm life, Murphy demonstrates how crucial it is to focus on the small, real tasks in the face of something too big and too dark to understand.” (Time Out New York)

“There is beauty in these snapshots alone, yet the most striking moments appear as they play fugue to one another. . . . Told through the prose of the father’s daily log, The Call is a subtle, lush, and ultimately, masterful novel.” (Nylon Magazine)

“Murphy is a subtle, psychologically perceptive writer. . . . A marvelous book: sweet and poignant without ever succumbing to easy sentiment, formally inventive and dexterous without ever seeming showy. A triumph.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Incisive and imaginative. . . . [A] hypnotically patterned, wryly funny, and warmly compassionate tale . . . Visceral detail and deep knowledge stoke this gorgeously realized novel . . . With phenomenal economy and delicious deadpan humor, Murphy dramatizes . . . the many forms of giving and healing.” (Booklist (starred review))

“This is a wonderful novel. Original, suspenseful, funny and profoundly moving. It’s about family, community, the human bond with animals and--oh yeah--spaceships. I am in awe of Yannick Murphy’s achievement and I plan to recommend The Call to everyone I know.” (Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Caleb's Crossing)

“A triumph of quiet humor and understated beauty. . . . 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.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Yannick Murphy’s beautiful new novel is a stirring example of what a real writer can do with form and feeling. The Call is sly, funny, scary, honest, wonderstruck and, most of all, intensely generous.” (Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask)

“This book delights with its discrete structuring. . . . The pieces snap together in odd juxtaposition, surprising, making a picture more sturdy and dependable than the seamless whole. It has the power of good old Byzantine mosaic.” (Padgett Powell, author of The Interrogative Mood)

“This is a beautiful book, and . . . one that should act as a great model for using form as a scaffolding for innovation of approach, while also firing from the hip of the voice and the blood of why people started telling stories ever at all.” (HTML Giant)

“Yannick Murphy’s The Call, about a family dealing with the consequences of a tragic accident, explores marriage, parenthood, small-town life, medicine, and hope with a sensitivity, skill, and fearlessness that will rattle your bones.” (Ben Greenman, author of Celebrity Chekhov and What He's Poised to Do)

The Call is a nifty trick of a novel. The quick summer read that transcends its category. [It] thoroughly engrosses, entertains, and, finally, enlightens.” (New York Journal of Books)

“A quirky, artful and ultimately moving story of a year in the life of country vet.” (Shelf Awareness)

“The restraint around the narrative [in The Call] only highlights the beauty of Murphy’s prose. . . . [Her] eye for poignant details sells this refreshingly upbeat portrait of a man’s quiet strength.” (Orlando Sentinel)

Impossible to put down. . . . Refreshingly full, honest depth. . . . This is a novel’s novel, the kind of book that can’t spare a word, that’s perfectly insular but still manage to enlighten readers about their own lives.” (Portland Mercury)

The Call, a beguiling novel by Yannick Murphy, is that rarest of creatures: a book about a happy family.” (Valley News)

The Call is an enormously affecting and lovely exploration of ordinary and extraordinary love. In prose that is as grand, startling, and particular as the New England landscape that inhabits her characters . . . Yannick Murphy tells a story that will break and repair your heart.” (Chris Adrian, author of The Great Night)

“Here is a book to break the formula, both edgy and moving. . . . [it] builds into an exquisite, pointed poem to domesticity . . . Unexpected and stirring . . . [Murphy] is that rarity: a sharp writer unafraid to be tender.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“Murphy’s eye for small-town detail and human/animal relations makes for a complex, delicate story line, and the novel as a whole carries a very real human velocity and gravity. The domestic focus and unexpected intrusions recall fiction by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida.” (Library Journal)

“This subtle, beautifully rendered novel is one of the best books of the year.” (Flavorwire)

“[An] inventive novel . . . told with wry wit and unabashed anger, the story unfolds through the rural veterinarian’s call notes.” (Bark)

The Call surprised me from the first page to the last and delighted me on every one in between. . . . I feel lucky to have read it.” (Yankee Magazine)

From the Back Cover

The daily rhythm of a veterinarian’s family in rural New England is shaken when a hunting accident leaves their eldest son in a coma. With the lives of his loved ones unhinged, the veterinarian struggles to maintain stability while searching for the man responsible. But in the midst of their great trial an unexpected visitor arrives, requesting a favor that will have profound consequences—testing a loving father’s patience, humor, and resolve and forcing husband and wife to come to terms with what “family” truly means.

The Call is a gift from one of the most talented and extraordinary voices in contemporary fiction—a unique and heartfelt portrait of a family, poignant and rich in humor and imagination.

If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $2.99 (Save 73%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.

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Download an excerpt from The Call [PDF].

Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062023144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062023148
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #573,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Call called me, only faintly at first with its terse log-like entries. So this is going to be a book about a country vet who delivers goats, sews up a horse that listens to classical music, and relates to a zebra? It is. And more.
I've been inside the head of David Appleton and the heart of the Appleton family. A heart that holds lots of love and laughter, but is also pulled, twisted, and strained. Murphy knows about families and knows how to tell their stories--very well. Despite its unusual abrupt style, she brings the Appleton family fully to life, not only David and Jen, but the three children. Nights are cold; snow falls. Parents bicker. Children come out with the unexpected. Family dinners are so delicious, that I flipped to the back vainly hoping for recipes. Ah, the pork chops! Oh, the gypsy soup. Outside of the household, Murphy has captured many of the small town's 600 quirky residents in brief but colorful sketches. She has an eye; she has an ear; she has a true voice.
I quickly answered the call of the book and sank into full-time reading. Then, the tragic accident that almost rends the family took me with a jolt. It mirrored a decades old episode in my own family's journey so closely and clearly, that I almost shut the book, but I persevered. Glad I am and I can testify that account of the Appletons' suffering is pinpoint accurate.
A fine book. How fine? I immediately ordered one of Murphy's children's books for my five-year-old granddaughter. Now I'm off to make gypsy soup.
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Only 2 customer reviews for this fine book? Shame!

Related in deceptively straightforward but poetically resonant journal entries by large-animal vet David Appleton, the novel is about the bonds that grapple families together in joy, humor, sorrow and sacrifice, and how similar bonds also bind people to the animals who share their lives. Appleton, happily married, the doting father of 3, is going along at midlife on his daily rounds among the farms of his small Vermont town, while trying to ignore elevated "levels" signifying possible trouble with his prostate. His routine of treating colicky horses and delivering calves and putting down sick and old creatures is shattered when a hunting accident wounds his 12-year-old son and puts him into a coma.

Spoiler alert... Even after the boy recovers David is obsessed with the mystery of the identity of the unseen gunman who fired the errant shot that knocked Sam out of his 12-foot-high deer blind. But it turns out that a greater mystery than that is about to enter David's life, testing just how deep his loyalty to family runs.

Sweet-natured, quirky, humorous, the book is a quiet triumph, taking us into the intimate heart of a spirited marriage and showing the joy and heartbreak of sharing the raising of children. The author, a woman, has done a fine job of entering into a masculine persona -- David is a completely credible character and Murphy's unconventional narrative method of relating the story through his journal entries gave me the rare experience of inhabiting someone else's consciousness. I found David Appleton's consciousness an interesting and congenial place to be.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Call captured me from the beginning; cast in the form of veterinarian "calls" with ACTIONS, RESULTS, it at first is charmingly funny. David Appleton is quirky, to say the least. He wonders about the lights in the sky, and considers them a spaceship (as does the whole family). Can they get away from their rural life? The story is really about how they all come to love and appreciate what they have. Much of it is just funny, and as the entries in the log book expand to WHAT THE WIFE SAID to WHAT I SAID TO THE SPACEMAN DRIVING HOME, I was completely drawn in. Sometimes David seems clueless, and even then Murphy manages sharp little observations about how we live, as when David's wife tells him that Panko bread crumbs aren't the same as regular bread crumbs: "How could a thing like bread crumbs go from being simple to complex?" The writing is deceptively simple, plain even, but every word rings true. One of my favorite novels of the year.
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I agree with other reviewers that the format takes some getting used to but I disagree with the consensus that it works. I think it neutralizes the emotion in this novel, it IS too "clinical", despite the fact that some of the writing, especially describing seasons, nature, inner thoughts, is quite lovely. I DO like the narrator, the vet - he suffers from self doubt, powerful inner desires and strong sentiments but these traits aren't conveyed very well through this writing style. The major conflicts our protagonist has to deal with - the unfortunate event with his son and outcome thereof, the "cerebral" hunt for the culprit and the arrival of - SPOILER - someone from his past would be cataclysmic for anyone, but the resolution of these events seems strangely flat. Life just goes on. I know that's what it's meant to do, but normally, we go through our insides being turned out first before we allow acceptance, and I didn't find that here. The other point I would bring up is that it's awfully difficult to read about animals suffering and doubly difficult when euthanasia is the solution [described in detail] or discussed as the solution. This, too, is presented matter-of-fact when perhaps the introduction of an emotional element would have helped the reader deal with the inevitable distress associated with an animal's misery and death.
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