Nostalgia: Book summary and reviews of Nostalgia by Dennis McFarland

Nostalgia

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Book Summary

This stunning Civil War novel from best-selling author Dennis McFarland brings us the journey of a nineteen-year-old private, abandoned by his comrades in the Wilderness, who is struggling to regain his voice, his identity, and his place in a world utterly changed by what he has experienced on the battlefield.

In the winter of 1864, Summerfield Hayes, a pitcher for the famous Eckford Club, enlists in the Union army, leaving his sister, a schoolteacher, devastated and alone in their Brooklyn home. The siblings, who have lost both their parents, are unusually attached, and Hayes fears his untoward secret feelings for his sister.

This rich backstory is intercut with scenes of his soul-altering hours on the march and at the front - the slaughter of barely grown young men who only days before whooped it up with him in a regimental ball game; his temporary deafness and disorientation after a shell blast; his fevered attempt to find safe haven after he has been deserted by his own comrades - and, later, in a Washington military hospital, where he finds himself mute and unable even to write his name. In this twilit realm, among the people he encounters - including a compassionate drug-addicted amputee, the ward matron who only appears to be his enemy, and the captain who is convinced that Hayes is faking his illness - is a gray-bearded eccentric who visits the ward daily and becomes Hayes's strongest advocate: Walt Whitman.

This timeless story, whose outcome hinges on friendships forged in crisis, reminds us that the injuries of war are manifold, and the healing goodness in the human soul runs deep and strong.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A] moving account of one soldier's journey to hell and back, and his struggle to make his own individual peace with the world afterward." - Publishers Weekly

"Masterful writing recommended for Civil War buffs and fans of literary fiction." - Library Journal

"Using a complex, effective narrative strategy, McFarland moves us confidently from battlefield to hospital to baseball diamond as well as through dream, reverie and memory. A distinguished addition to fictionalized narratives focused on the Civil War and its aftermath." - Kirkus

"Nostalgia deftly explores an aspect of war little understood in Whitman's time or in our own - the invisible wounds combat inflicts upon many of those who somehow manage to survive it." - Geoffrey C. Ward, coauthor of The Civil War and author of A Disposition to Be Rich

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Author Information

Dennis McFarland Author Biography

Photo: Larry Keane

Dennis McFarland is the author of six previous novels: Letter from Point Clear, Prince Edward, Singing Boy, A Face at the Window, School for the Blind, and The Music Room. His short fiction has appeared in The American Scholar, The New Yorker, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, and Best American Short Stories, among other publications. He has received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Wallace E. Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, where he has also taught creative writing. He lives in rural Vermont with his wife, the writer and poet Michelle Blake.

Link to Dennis McFarland's Website

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