A young cowboy suffers from nightmares and alcoholism after fighting in World War I.
Lowe’s prequel to her first novel (The Bonus, 2011) is a harrowing journey into the downward spiral of one young combat veteran of World War I. Will Hardy, a Texas cowboy, is, like a lot of young men, filled with gusto and false bravado. Along with friend Tommy, Hardy wants to fight Germans “Texas cowboy style” when World War I breaks out. Once they both get to France, however, the awful reality of war takes over; Tommy is killed, Hardy’s favorite horse is disemboweled, and Hardy is seriously wounded. He recovers physically but not mentally, and he returns home haunted by nightmares and nearly incapacitated. Hardy turns to alcohol to dull the memories, and the novel follows his efforts to regain himself. Lowe has written a starkly realistic novel about war that pulls no punches. She uses pointed, descriptive prose: “Even so he was still shielding another soldier that had been face shot.” Lowe reserves particular rancor for unsympathetic doctors who dismiss the traumatized wounded as cowards; when a doctor mockingly says, “You’re a girly girl and you know it” to a suffering soldier, one can feel Lowe’s indignation. A recurring theme has Hardy reading Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage,a nod to another work that tackles the pointlessness of war. In depicting Hardy’s quest to understand himself and why he now shrinks from the battlefield, Lowe equates him and Crane’s similarly fearful protagonist, Henry Fleming. Both men knew war to be hell—and its aftermath even worse.
A searing portrayal of war and the long-term effects it has on those who fight it.