Men with Broken Faces by James Ostby
Published: 2010 by Dog Ear Publishing
Format/Source: Kindle Book Received From Author
Genre: Historical Fiction
Men With Broken Faces is the story of a World War I soldier’s fight for physical survival during combat, and of his struggle for spiritual survival afterward. The book follows Morgan Feeney from basic training in Montana to front-line combat in France, and back to Montana. Some of the sub-plots include Morgan’s affliction with petit mal epilepsy; the death on the battlefield of a gay prizefighter’s friend; Morgan’s vision of his ideal love, Evangeline; Morgan’s neurasthenia (shell shock); and worst of all, the suicide death of his friend, Lansing Rhodes, just before the end of the war. For the rest of his life Morgan is haunted by the war, by Lansing’s war diary, and by Evangeline. After his release from the army, Morgan homesteads in northeastern Montana. Burdened by his epilepsy, and tormented by his war experiences, Morgan becomes an outcast; the object of gossip and ridicule. Morgan’s one salvation is the incarnation of Evangeline: beautiful Genevieve Richards, who was a nurse in France during the war. Despite Morgan’s suffering, Genevieve recognizes an innate courage and dignity within him. Genevieve herself is psychologically wounded. She and Morgan find themselves attracted to each other, but their relationship is not complete until they realize that one of the “men with broken faces”* whom Genevieve had tended is Lansing, who is still alive. Lansing-mad, and addicted to opium-has a psychogenic control over Genevieve that ends only when he sacrifices himself for her, and for Morgan. In the end, Morgan and Genevieve find peace together. * Those so hideously wounded that French artists were hired to make masks for them.
When I first started reading Men with Broken Faces, I was not entirely sure what to expect. As I got only a couple of chapters in and into the details of the war, I was hooked. From there, the author took me on a roller coaster of questions and emotions through the book. As I reached the end, I felt like I had learned something I never knew about the war and how it can affect individuals. I recommend this book for anyone interested in a historical fiction read on WWI.
The book was divided into two parts: pre-war and post-war. The main character, Morgan, is likeable and you really get to know him through the book. The first part of the book carried the reader into the reality and hardships of war. The author does not romanticize it, which reminded me of one of my favorite Civil War books, Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! by George C. Rable. The chapters on the war were detailed and profound…they were my favorite chapters of the book as they left me on the edge of my seat because anything could happen next. There was suspense in the uncertainty of each battle…Will the man next to you in the AM be there in the PM? The war chapters were filled with honesty, brutality, and eye-opening details and of war.
Part two of the book dove deeper into the after-effects war had on individuals. The author even incorporated a little romance into it all to add to the reading. As I began this part of the book, it took me a few chapters to get into the new style following the dramatic events of the war and blunt writing-style associated with these events. It went from suspense during battle to the return back to civilian life in the country. When I reached towards the middle of part two, an almost mystery-like storyline began, and I again could not put the book down until I reached the very end. The book became filled with action and curiosity once again. The author did a nice job tying together the themes and characters of the book through the end, making connections between the first half of the book and the second. This was something I appreciated because it did not leave me feeling like I was missing something or had unanswered questions.
Incorporated into the book were flashbacks and memories. These just added another element of depth to the characters and events. There were times I did get a little lost with these flashbacks; however, they were a unique addition to the book. The number of different elements from war, shell-shock, post-war life, and love brought me full-circle. The book had it all and tied the details together well.
I received this book from Mr. Ostby to review. I am very much looking forward to his next book coming out, Jake Miller’s Wheel.