Sunday, January 8, 2012

Who is Yannick Murphy?

Once again I've been totally blindsided by a novelist, much as I was by Lionel Shriver. Usually I read books by authors I'm familiar with but I kept shelving this little novella, The Call, and the cover well, yes, it called to me. Then I saw if on several "best of 2011" lists and discovered that we actually had a copy in our downloadable format. I read it on my nook in just a couple of days.

This novel, The Call, is so deceptively simple, you think that you're just reading a diary, kind of "a day in the life of a country veterinarian" type book - think James Herriott. Then suddenly, it takes such a turn that you shake your head in disbelief. Where is the author going you wonder? And then, when you find out? Frankly, I was awestruck.

The format of The Call may take a page or two to adjust to. Four seasons, daily calls to the veterinarian's home for his services; a goat needs help in the birthing process, a horse needs stitches, a dog is listless, a cow isn't giving milk.

Over the course of a year, readers are introduced to a glorious array of characters who people this small New England farm town. Especially poignant is the elderly woman whose sheep lives in the house with her, keeping her company much as a dog would. When she asks the veterinarian for help, it is for herself that she's really calling, simply needing some company or perhaps a caring prod to make that phone call to the doctor for her own checkup.

A reluctant hunter, the veterinarian takes his son Sam on his first foray into the woods for deer season, against the wishes of his wife, Jen. A shocking accident sends Sam to the hospital with a head injury and this light story morphs into something so much more, an investigation of guilt, vengeance, familial stress, and the hope that springs eternal in all of us. Through their reactions to Sam's predicament, Jen, her husband and their two little girls, come alive as individuals and as an unbeatable family unit.

I dare not tell you more about this book for fear of taking away the lovely suprises that Murphy reveals like a set of nesting dolls. What I do want to say is how stunned I was, at the conclusion of this book,   to discover that the author is a woman. This fact somehow enhanced my appreciation of her skills, as she had so totally inhabited the character of the male veterinarian who narrates the story, to the point where I was actually getting angry at him/her for his/her off hand treatment of his wife. OK, agreed, that was a tough one to explain.

All I can say is I highly recommend giving this book a chance. I've only disclosed some of the surprises. Honest. It would make a fantastic book discussion and I will likely consider it for next  year. Treat yourself to Yannick Murphy's website at:

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