Fast forward to some time later and we find the soldier’s wife, Margaret and their son Gordon going through life without the head of their small family. Thomas’ injuries left him in a vegetative state with no hopes of ever recovering. By mere few pages, Margaret’s loneliness and acceptance of life became astonishingly clear. We see the son, seemingly lost in his own world and aware of the maw left by a father barely alive. We see the soldier’s own father contemplating about all the things that his son will no longer be able to do.
When Charlie King arrived in Margaret’s life, we see her awaken. And it’s odd because it came so easy – Charlie and Margaret, that is. The mutual attraction was instantaneous; the love connection, immediate. It was something that normally would drive me insane but Monninger had a way with his words that described their situation that ultimately convinced me – forgave the notion, even. Time became irrelevant. The romance was forbidden in all sense of the word. After all, Margaret was still married to a man half-alive and bed ridden for the rest of his life. The idea that she can file for a divorce to a man forever paralyzed and then adopt him for a son was so…shocking and unheard of and oddly enough, made a whole lot of sense. The love she felt for him did not diminish but transformed into something else entirely.
I enjoyed this poignant telling of second chances – new lease on love while her first love lay disconnected to the world in perpetual sleep. It was sad but never once did it make me angry at how Margaret could have an affair while her husband was in such a state. If anything, I was very forgiving and understanding of why she felt the way she did for Charlie.
The novel has an old-world ambience to it even if it was set in the present time. It was in the language and the way Monninger describe all its idiosyncrasies. For a moment, you would think you were reading a book about set in the World Wars of the past. It was uncanny and oddly enough, it fit the poignancy of its subject matter. Some may find this unsettling, but for me, it added to the charm.
Most of all, it gave me a perspective to how a soldier’s family really thought about the pointlessness of war. Margaret was angry that her husband gave up his body to a war of which they didn’t have a clear opinion on. It doesn’t make them any less patriotic; they just weren’t educated enough about why their country needed to go to war. Many enlists for whatever reasons and the sad, heart breaking part of all was that Thomas enlisted because his family needed the money. In that sense, it truly wasn’t worth it. And that was the root of Margaret’s anger. It also tells of the American government’s failure to provide for the families of their injured veterans and while I cannot comment explicitly, I think that the present seated government is doing their best.
Joseph Monninger’s writing was very heartfelt, romantic and filled with emotions uncommonly heard of from a male writer. Sad but true, in my opinion.