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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Remember Ben Clayton

Remember Ben Clayton
Stephen Harrigan
Knopf, 2011

Francis "Gil" Gilheaney is a skilled and accomplished sculptor living in a self-imposed exile in Texas just after World War I. His adult daughter, Maureen, serves as his assistant, although she has artistic ambitions of her own. She is just beginning to realize how her own life’s goals have taken a back seat to her father’s career ever since her mother’s death. When Lamar Clayton, an aging, heartbroken rancher, offers Gil a commission to create a memorial statue of his son Ben, who was killed in the war, Gil seizes the opportunity to create what he believes will be his greatest masterpiece.

Lamar Clayton is a prideful, stubborn man, but he has met his match in Gil. Both have a vision for the statue and both have troubled pasts that have come to haunt them. Meanwhile, Ben’s wartime friend was also greatly impacted by the war in that he was seriously injured, so much so that he doesn’t want to return home and subject his friends to his deformed face. After he sends a letter to Ben’s father explaining the circumstances of Ben’s death, Maureen picks up the correspondence and the two become friends, providing support that enables each of them to move forward with their lives.

This complex and moving story is a captivating one. Each character is richly and realistically portrayed. I found myself caring about each one, especially the wounded soldier who bravely attempts to carry on with his diminished life. Gil and Lamar both carry heavy secrets that weigh them down, affecting their relationships with family members, especially their children. When Ben discovers his father’s secret, he reacts with a self-destructive violence, while Maureen channels her emotional turmoil into a more positive outcome. This novel about family dynamics, the power of secrets, and emotional vulnerability is excellent and sure to please readers who like literary and historical fiction.


Other novels by this author:
Challenger Park (2006)

Other titles you may enjoy:

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah (2010)
Reunited when their beloved father falls ill, sisters Meredith and Nina find themselves under the shadow of their disapproving mother, whose painful history is hidden behind her rendition of a Russian fairy tale told to the sisters in childhood.

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult (2006)
When his fourteen-year-old daughter is raped by her boyfriend, an overprotective father with a secret past decides to take the law into his own hands, a choice that takes him into the wilds of the Alaskan bush.

My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young (2011)
A story that intertwines the lives of two very different couples during World War I follows army soldier Riley as he fights for the love of Nadine despite a terrible injury, and Riley's commanding officer Peter Locke, who returns home from the war a bitter and scarred man.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - 5 cupcakes! That certainly is high praise! I just may have to pick this one up! I read one of your titles listed under "you may enjoy", and my sister read Kristen Hannah's book and recommended it to me, too. So if this one is similar, that I definitely will add it to my list!