Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Book Review--The Mule Shoe
Trouche, Perry. The Mule Shoe. Star Cloud Press. Scottsdale, AZ. 2009, 216 pages. $18.95.
I would imagine every soldier who goes off to war has lingering doubts as to whether they are good enough. They also have concerns about those they have left behind. To top it all off those in war see sights the rest of us never dream of in our worst nightmares and many are never able to forget them. Dr. Perry Trouche, a psychiatrist from Charleston, South Carolina, has written a quick moving story dealing with these issues in his fictionalized account of a Confederate soldier whose regiment is on their way to Spotsylvania.
Connor Dumont is the newbie who is often picked upon by veteran soldiers. Characters (voices in his head) from his past including Grandma Mamere who berates him and constantly tells him he's not brave enough or good enough, Ezekiel the slave who condemns him for being a slaveholder, and others show up on a regular basis. As Connor loses friends and fellow soldiers in battle they too end up in his mind gnawing away to what sanity is left. Many times these voices battle for space in Connor's mind all looking to exert influence over him. Connor survives and begins working towards normalcy all the while changed due to the horrors he has witnessed and participated in.
The Civil War was not pretty and Dr. Trouche does not attempt to mask the violence. Soldiers are killed and their deaths are not sugar coated. This is how it should be. If you are going to write a war-time story tell it like it was. Overall I found Dr. Trouche to write engagingly and the book flowed well. The speech worked for me and sounded realistic.
For me however this story really could have been any war and Connor transported in time. For whatever reason I didn't really get a "Civil War vibe" out of the book. I can't put my finger on why however. Maybe it's because the main focus is on the lead character rather than the war itself.
A couple of small issues I noted...There were times when I found it difficult to keep track of what was real vs. what was being played out in Connor's head. I found myself on occasion rereading sections to make sure I understood what was happening. Maybe putting the sections that are in Connor's head in italics would make it easier for readers. On a picky note there are some spelling and grammatical errors spread throughout that could have been picked up during the editing process. And for me what I really didn't understand was why in a book dealing with Spotsylvania is the cover photo "Confederate Soldiers after the Battle of Gettysburg". It's a great Matthew Brady photo but it seems a bit out of place. I suppose though casual reader would not even notice such or care one way or the other.
While not the best work of fiction I have read this is a story that moves along well. The writing is enjoyable and accessible. Dr. Trouche creates atmosphere nicely. You are not going to learn anything about the Civil War here but that's not the point as I see it. You will however be entertained and that is the point. Overall a good read and recommended for times when you don't want anything too involved.
Thanks to the good people at Star Cloud Press for providing a review copy!