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Monday, September 19, 2011

The Call

The Call

Yannick Murphy
Harper, 2011

David is a large animal vet living in rural New Hampshire. He has three active children and a harried wife who is not shy about expressing her emotions. David is a worrier. He worries about his patients and their owners; he worries about a spaceship that hovers over his house; he worries about his own health (but not as much as his wife and doctor do); and he worries about someone who keeps calling and hanging up without speaking. But most of all, he obsesses about the hunter who accidentally shot his son on his first hunting expedition, causing him to fall on his head and lapse into a coma. It appears that the hunter is avoiding taking responsibility for his actions, and David wonders if he is lurking behind the face of almost everyone he meets each day.

Told in spare journal entries, David gives a very brief outline of each “call” he receives each day, along with one or two sentences about the medical situation, the visit, and subsequent thoughts that occur to him – both relating to the call and otherwise -- listed in categories. We learn much about David, his family, his patients, and others in the community as he records his thoughts and opinions on their actions, but underlying each entry is the usually unspoken anxiety and worry about his son’s condition and the possibility that he will never learn who shot him. I especially enjoyed the entries about his wife’s reactions to his and the children’s behavior, which were often very funny and biting in their sarcastic wit.

While the writing style is admirable (how can each entry be so short yet say so much?), it does take some getting used to. The action is off-camera, so to speak, yet skillfully layered with so much emotion and tension that each word carried a great deal of weight. In spite of the skill and the tension and the interesting animal conditions that necessitated each “call,” I had trouble warming up to this book. Maybe the spare writing left me a bit cold, or maybe I wanted to know more about the other characters. I’m not sure, but I was left with a bit of a let-down feeling, a little disappointed that some things weren’t fleshed out a bit more. I especially would have liked to get to know the wife just a bit better. I have a feeling we would have gotten along really well.


Other novels by this author:
Here They Come (2006)
Signed, Mata Hari (2007)

Other novels you may enjoy:

Sight Hound by Pam Houston (2005)
In his endeavor to teach his human, Rae, about the power of love over fear, wolfhound Dante simultaneously impacts the lives of Rae's housekeeper, her therapist, two veterinarians, fellow dog Rose, and Stanley the cat.

A Year of Cats and Dogs by Margaret Hawkins (2009)
After her longtime boyfriend abruptly leaves and she quits her job, Maryanne hopes to crawl out of a mid-life crisis as a veterinarian's assistant at an animal shelter when she discovers the ability to communicate with animals.

A Country Affair by Rebecca Shaw (2006)
The first in a series of novels set in a veterinary practice on the outskirts of a Yorkshire, England, town introduces Kate, the receptionist in a busy veterinary practice; Scott, the flirty Australian vet; her faithful boyfriend, Adam; and the entertaining animal patients.

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