Customer Reviews: The Call: A Novel
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on August 25, 2011
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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on September 2, 2011
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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on September 3, 2011
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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on February 2, 2012
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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on November 7, 2011
Warning: The format of this unique novel may, at first, be off-putting. It was for me.
Suggestion: Stick with it for several pages.
Title: The central character, a large animal vet, gets a wide variety of calls about a wide variety of animals, many of which one would not expect to find in a rural area which I suspect is somewhere in New England since the author lives in Vermont.
What I Say: This may be one of the most unique novels I have ever read--and I am a very avid reader. And what you are experiencing reading my "review" should give you a bit of a hint about the format of this novel in which a family of five is confronted with an hunting accident. These are folks who love to go hunting, especially for deer.
What I Think: It might be fun to try writing a short piece of fiction using this format. And I think the person who gave this a two-star review may have not given the novel enough time because I think that most readers will quite quickly fall into the pace of this novel.
What I Say: If the novelist had been a man, I think I would have been angry that the narrator--the vet--often refers to his wife as "the wife." He never does the "little woman" bit.
Action: There is plenty of action although it might not seem so for a while.
What Else Do I Think: That there are tensions in this marriage that aren't exactly acknowledged, at least for a while. And the yearning the protagonist has for the possibility of living elsewhere--he has lived elsewhere, has been a surfer--suggest that the elements of where they live are not kind to those who live there.
And I Say That: I lived most of my life in Vermont. And am so relieved not to have to endure the many months of cold and dreariness. So I can relate.
What I Think: You should give this novel the "old college try" because I have a sense that it just might win some awards. And then you would be able to say, "Well, I just thought it might."
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on September 14, 2012
A most unusual narrative style

I have to admit I was quite put off at first. But ... it worked! I went with the flow of the Mental Journal style of abbreviated writing and enjoyed the reveal coming through everyday actions and thoughts.

WHAT HAPPENS IN THIS STORY : We follow a vet making house calls in a small rural community and trying to find out who accidentally shot his son
WHAT DOESN'T HAPPEN IN THIS STORY : We never find out about the spaceship
CALL : Mostly it is someone about their livestock, but sometimes it is a mysterious, unknown caller
ACTION : Deliver a kid, put down a horse, treat a sheep, donate a kidney to a "son".
RESULT : An interesting take on narrative
WHAT I THINK ABOUT AS I READ THIS : Is the whole book like this?
WHAT I DID : I jumped to the back to have a look to see if it was all like this
WHAT THEY HAVE FOR DINNER : Some might find this irritating but I enjoyed it!
HOW THE FAMILY BEHAVED : This gave the book the warmth that was needed as the writing style made you a bit detached.
DID I ENJOY THIS BOOK : Well, yes ... but I wouldn't want to read everything like this! ... I preferred the odd narrative style of "Super Sad True Love Story" ... but I would recommend it if you are after something a little oddball.
AM I SERIOUS : Yes ... the whole book is like this!!!!
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on February 2, 2012
I chose to read this book because it had received some good reviews. However, if it offered a money back guarantee, I'd be asking for mucho dinero.

The narrative format is experimental. THE CALL is written in the form of a veterinarian's journal; however, the journal is not typical. Yannick Murphy, the author, gives a topic and then an answer. The topics can range from what a client needs - "The Call" - to other subjects like "What I Thought Aboout Driving Home", "What My Wife Cooked for Dinner", "What the Flies Said When I Got Home" - almost anything. The narrative is embedded in the vet's answers (Oh, how it's embedded. Like a nail.).

I read this format for a while and wondered when the author was going to tell a traditional story. It never happened. I found the style tedious. I'm all for being creative, but this didn't work for me. A good piece of fiction is either a page turner or something to savor. The pacing ponderous, reading was like walking through a bog. When I got to the end, I was simply glad the long walk was over.
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on October 2, 2011
The Call is a quirky, fun read that left me smiling. The book is structured around a series of "calls", initially house calls, to which David Appleton, a struggling small town veterinarian, is summoned. The supposedly matter-of-fact descriptions of each appointment, which include the problem detected, the actions taken and the results of those actions in each case reveal much more than bare facts about the veterinarian journalist and the family and others who make up his small world. Here is revealed a basically good man not accustomed to confronting his inner thoughts and emotions. The entries catalogue the many professional visits Appleton makes, but more importantly, the human connections with his clients and family. The entries are written as if the writer doesn't recognize that this journal is really a personal diary; hiding behind a professional log provides the armor that shields him from having to directly confront his state of mind. As the journal progresses, the entries, while maintaining the form used to methodically describe vet appointments, evolve to similarly attempt to organize the more messy details of Appleton's life. The family he describes is warm, but with the usual amount of discontent, and is shaken to its roots by a hunting accident. The resulting estrangement from his wife, and the tremendous guilt Appleton feels as he works through the tragedy are indirectly described through his journal. The value of family bonds and the notion of what makes a family are all explored while goats, horses, chickens and a pet sheep are all visited and tended to.

Yannick Murphy has done an extraordinary job bringing characters to life in what could have been a restricting form. From the sparse language emerge well-rounded real people, whose foibles and tragedies are never mocked, but are presented with humor and dignity. The Call reminded me of The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise in its gentle examination of the great range of emotion that lies within even the most simple of us.
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on September 24, 2012
I read this book on the recommendation of a very trusted source and was advised that the format of the book, a 'journal' style, might seem somewhat tedious at first but to stick with it because the book was more than well worth the effort......and it was! I enjoyed the journal format in which the book was written; as an animal lover of the highest order, I enjoyed the vet visits and the obvious care for both the animals and their human caretakers. It was the subtle admission into the personal family life of the journal writer that was so captivating and that kept me turning the pages well into the night. One of my personal "Best Books of 2012".
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VINE VOICEon September 8, 2011
Written as a journal, this is the story of the daily life of a country veterinarian in rural Vermont. It may sound boring or even stupid as you read the entries. The call he gets from his clients, what he does, what his wife makes for dinner or what his kids say to him or not say to him when he gets home. But somehow, they all weave together into a quaint story of his life. As a reader, we get to learn about such a life and the importance of family.
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