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The Ways of Mud and Bone by Carrie Ann Lahain: A Book Review

The Ways of Mud and Bone
Author: Carrie Ann Lahain
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: CreateSpace
Release Date: 2013
Pages: 248
Source: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: In the summer of 1918, as the Great War rages in Europe, nineteen-year-old Meryl Goodson’s small-town life is shattered when her cousin Nora’s fiancĂ© is killed in France. The tragedy causes a rift in the community between those for the war and those against it. As local tensions rise, Meryl begins her service with an overseas relief unit. Caught up in her own brutal day-to-day struggle in war-weary France, she is unaware of how far matters have deteriorated at home. The truth leaves her broken and grieving. Is the world she once knew gone forever? Or can the friendships she’s made help Meryl find the strength to begin again? 

     A bit like LITTLE WOMEN meets ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, THE WAYS OF MUD AND BONE is a uniquely American book about the war to end all wars.


     My Review: In Mrs. Lahain’s debut novel set in WWI, The Ways of Mud and Bone tells the story of a young American nurse who is sent to France to help tend to wounded soldiers. While she is there, she finds that there is terror and death surrounding her. However, while she is enduring the hardships of the war in France, she is unaware of the problems at home. Throughout her trials, the young nurse, Meryl, strives to find strength, hope, and light during a time of darkness, grief, and destruction.

     The story begins with the death of Meryl’s cousin Nora’s fiance, Teddy, an American soldier who died in battle. Meryl’s father is a doctor, and he trains her and her sister, Claire to be nurses. Both Meryl and Claire are accepted into a relief unit program in New York. Shortly afterwards, their relief unit assigns them to France. Before Claire can go to France with her sister, she falls ill, leaving Meryl to go overseas on her own. Meryl, with two other girls, Priscilla and Emma, and two doctors cross the ocean with a reserved army. On the ship, influenza spreads and Meryl catches it. But when they arrive in France, they are surrounded by warfare.

     Meryl is very quiet but observant. She does not say much and is usually portrayed as being in the background eclipsed by other spirited characters. Sometimes, she can be impulsive and judgmental at first, but later her judgments change. She is also caring, for she cares about her friends and family.

     But while Meryl is in France, the story focuses on Nora, who is managing Meryl’s home. Meryl’s father is arrested because he is seen as a German sympathizer because he lets Germans stay in their house. She also looks after Claire’s well-being, who still has not fully recovered from her sickness. While Nora is trying to deal with these problems, she finds unexpected romance along the way.

     Overall, this story is about tragedy, loss, friendship, family, and romance. Most of all, it is about trying to cope and to find a place of contentment when struggling with grief. It is about how a person should carry on and put one foot in front of the other in a period of sadness. The story is beautifully written, and the setting is is well-depicted in historical detailed. All of the characters are likable and fascinating. Some of them bold and flamboyant, but they are all realistic and human. I recommend this for those not only interested in WWI, but for those who are coping with grief and are trying to get their life back together again.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Comments

  1. Having written about WWI in my book The Space in Between, I would be interested in reading Carrie Ann Lahain's book. It will, of course, be from another perspective (I get the impression that the European setting is France), but the emotions, the loss and the hardships will, no doubt, be very similar.

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