The Call, by Yannick Murphy
Title: The Call
Author: Yannick Murphy
Originally Published: 2011
Format I Read: Paperback
Publisher: Harper Perennial
I received this book for free from the publisher. All content and opinions are my own.
David Appleton is a veterinarian in a small rural area. He has a wife, three children, two dogs, a rabbit, a house, and some land. He gets calls and goes out on calls. And in between he plays with his children and studies German. And then an accident changes almost everything.
Interesting format – the entire book is in the form of a kind of log of “calls” that the main character, a veterinarian receives. Here’s the opening call:
Call: A cow with her dead calf half-born.
Action: Put on boots and pulled dead calf out while standing in a field full of mud.
Result: Hind legs tore off from dead calf while I pulled. Head, forelegs, and torso are still inside the mother.
Thoughts on drive home while passing red and gold leaves on maple trees: Is there a nicer place to live?
What the children said to me when I got home: Hi, Pop.
What the wife cooked for dinner: Something mixed-up.
At first, I thought that the format would get old. But it didn’t. In fact, it lent a kind of poignancy to the entire story. And Murphy skillfully wields the format to tell the story.
Engaging writing – Wow. Yannick Murphy can write. A lot of the prose is blissfully unassuming, carrying the reader right along in a pleasant stream. And then, there will pop out of nowhere a beautiful gem. Here’s one I thought was particularly nice:
What the house said: I have let the mice come in for the winter to live in the walls, for if I don’t they will be cold and hungry and I am not that kind of house to shut them out.
Swift plot movement – While this is a relatively “simple” story of a rather “normal” family in an “average” town, the plot moves at a nice clip that makes it both refreshing and interesting. There is no belaboring points that don’t need to be belabored. I love it when a book avoids belaboring.
Awesome cover – I mean, isn’t it?
Limited character development – Really my only complaint is that I felt none of the characters, other than David, were very developed. The wife, Jen, in particular, felt flat to me. But, I think the characterization flaws may be, at least partly, a function of the format. Reading any book from a character’s log or diary obviously tends to make that character more prominent.
In sum, this is a great, quick read. I’m very impressed with it and would recommend it to anyone wanting some literary fiction fare.
The Call, by Yannick Murphy [rating:4]
Check out Yannick Murphy’s website.