REVIEW OF ECHOES FROM THE INFANTRY
By Frank Nappi
(Review by Linda Sittler)
Frank Nappi’s new book, Echoes From The Infantry, might have been aptly named “Echoes From the Human Heart;” it delves into the meaning of life from inside the heart and mind of a sensitive young soldier caught in the midst of World War II. More than just another war story, this brilliantly constructed book illustrates how the human condition is universal, how life is precious, and how, in the end, we are all the same.
Inside the head of James Mc Cleary, the reader is transported to war-torn Europe with vivid descriptions of a crying German child, compassionate and fearful young soldiers, calloused, seasoned troops, cramped quarters in makeshift foxholes, final moments of prayerful desperation, and heart-wrenching pictures of suffering and fallen soldiers on both sides of battle.
On another level the book is about an eldest son’s struggle to understand his strange and emotionally-absent father at the time of his mother’s death. The now elderly dad, a World War II veteran, has spent all of his post-war years detached from the rest of his family, lost in an unspeakable malaise of horrid memories.
Eldest son, John McCleary, comes home to his childhood house in Long Island to clean it out in preparation for sale after his mother’s death. In the attic he finds his “old man’s” war pack and a series of letters that he had written to his girlfriend, Maddie, John’s mother, during the war. These letters form the crucial pieces of the elusive puzzle that had been his father; they enable John to “know” the man and finally forgive the strained relationship between them.
As the son continues to uncover clues about the mystery of his father, the remarkable book weaves a compassionate tale that jumps skillfully between present and past with compelling, vivid incite into one man’s perspective in war, so that the reader becomes as thoroughly engaged as is the curious son and must keep turning pages to find out “who James McCleary really is.”
The book is a meaningful tribute to the traits that we call human—love, fear, hurt, compassion, hope, anger, and despair—no matter what uniform we wear in battle. It is a tribute to the power of the printed word—James McCleary’s letters written in combat were a link to his beloved Maddie and, years later, the key to a reconciliation between father and son; a young, captured German soldier’s last written words were empathetic with his captors and become crucial to a final cleansing for the elderly James McCleary.
It is also a tribute to the many other things that human beings share in common—dead German and American soldiers both carried pictures of their loved ones, religious medals, letters from home, and silly keepsakes that reminded them of the life they once knew. Families universally can relate to a parent’s dying or growing old, to the family’s accumulating a lifetime of “stuff,” and to the feeling of loss when there is finally a need to dispose of that “stuff” and sell the family homestead once and for all.
Echoes From The Infantry is a book that both men and women will find compelling and that baby boomers, who are beginning to lose parents, sell the family home, or finalize a relationship with an elderly parent, will intimately understand and appreciate.
Frank Nappi's web site, is http://www.franknappi.com
Frank Nappi's Interview http://boomersint.org/interview/Echoes.htm
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