Catalogue


Nostalgia /
Dennis McFarland.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : Pantheon Books, c2013.
description
322 p. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
9780307908346
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Pantheon Books, c2013.
isbn
9780307908346
catalogue key
9151761
A Look Inside
First Chapter

Beneath the bridge, he has fallen asleep despite his resolve, but not for long, never for long. The noise of his dreaming, as usual, awakens him, and as usual, he begins to tear at his clothes in an effort to expose his injuries. Soon he is naked, his trousers crumpled at his ankles, and he twists round and contorts, trying to explore with his hands the two wounds, one high in the middle of his back, the other along the back of his left thigh--each the bad work of shrapnel. He can achieve no position that allows him to see the wounds, though they recurrently burn like the heat of a hundred needles and sometimes soak his clothes with blood. If he could only see them, he might breathe easier, confirming by sight they're not mortal. He draws back on his trousers and shirt but leaves off with any buttons or buckles, for his hands have started again to shake, violently, the most irksome of his strange physical alterations.
 
His hearing has returned almost fully, though the fierce ringing in his ears remains. A high-pitched sizzling whir, it revives in him a sickening regret and sometimes vibrates his skull. He has noticed a soreness at the crown of his head, and when he touches the spot, he feels what's left there of a scab; he has no recollection of what caused this particular injury, but thankfully it appears to be healing.
 
When he is able to sleep, he most often has the old dream-come-true, which he first had about a week before the brigades began to cross the Rapidan: he'd startled awake in his tent one warm night near the end of April, crying out and rousing his bunkmate, Leggett, for in the dream his comrades had abandoned him on the battlefield. Now when the nightmare comes, it comes with the mechanics of memory, and he generally continues to doze till he is awakened by the popping dream-din of musketry, the gut-thunder of artillery, or, by far the worst, the grim fire-yelps of men dying. For a few seconds, the scent of gunpowder lingers in his nostrils, or the sweet coppery stench of charred flesh, and he begins again to tear at his clothes.
 
He rests in rocky soil beneath a bridge; this much he knows. The stone arch overhead spans a creek of about twenty paces in width. He doesn't know the name of the creek. From the sunlight that slides through the pines on the opposite bank and agitates on the brown water, he judges the time of day to be around six in the evening. Regarding his whereabouts, he knows only that he is most likely somewhere between Culpeper and Washington City. In his bread bag are some leftover rations--two worm castles, some sugar and pickled cabbage, the stub of a candle, and a strip of dry lucifers; in his knapsack, the book sent to him by his sister, her letters, his Christian Commission Testament, and a varnished, inscribed base ball. He figures he has averaged eight to ten miles a day, slipping footsore along streams, crouching through woods and fields, venturing onto roads only after dark. Though he has done no wrong, he must play the fugitive; though he himself was the one deserted, he is certain to be taken for a deserter and has no paper to prove otherwise. Even if he were to try joining another regiment, he might be arrested, perhaps quickly tried and executed. He has heard that the streets of Washington teem with soldiers of every stripe and condition, and he thinks that there he might escape scrutiny while he arranges, somehow, a return to Brooklyn.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2013-08-01:
The Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-7, 1864) is remembered as one of the most infamous and critical battles of the Civil War. Summerfield Hayes, an earnest and well-intentioned young man, impulsively enlists in the Union Army and finds himself in brutal hand-to-hand combat, hoping to lose himself in the experience and escape the inappropriate feelings he has developed for his older sister. He achieves his first desire after receiving a savage blow to the head-he loses his voice, his sense of self, and his ability to distinguish among memory, reality, and dream. Author McFarland has written eloquently about loss and grief in a number of acclaimed novels (The Music Room; Singing Boy) and he returns to these themes again in this powerful, moving new book. By capturing the kaleidoscopic, hallucinogenic nature of warfare persuasively, he skillfully brings his psychologically shattered protagonist through the difficult journey and returns him to health and sanity-kindness and compassion are what saves him. The characters here are especially well drawn, including a genial and wise old hospital volunteer named Walt Whitman. VERDICT Masterful writing recommended for Civil War buffs and fans of literary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 4/22/13.]- Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2013-07-15:
In McFarland's emotionally harrowing Civil War novel, Summerfield Hayes is a 19-year-old Brooklynite, living on Hicks Street and pitching for one of the local "base ball" teams. Over the objections of his older sister, Hayes enlists in the Union Army and ends up taking part in the Battle of the Wilderness. Wounded, he winds up in a hospital in Washington City, where his doctors see that the horrors of battle have rendered him mute and incapable of even signing his own name, and diagnose him as suffering from a medical condition then called nostalgia. Hayes is cared for by, among others, a ward matron and a bearded hospital volunteer named Walt whose identity should be immediately apparent to anyone who knows anything about 19th-century American poets. Employing three alternating narrative strands-Hayes's idyllic life in his native Brooklyn, his horrifying battlefield experiences, and his nightmarish hospital recuperation-McFarland manages to find something new to say about a war that could have had everything said about it already. In the end, this is a moving account of one soldier's journey to hell and back, and his struggle to make his own individual peace with the world afterward. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Reviews
Review Quotes
Advance Praise for Nostalgia "Walt Whitman, who haunts the pages of this sensitive, ingenious, beautifully written novel, famously said that the real Civil War would 'never get into the books.' Nostalgia deftly explores an aspect of war little understood in Whitman's time or in our own--the invisible wounds combat inflicts upon many of those who somehow manage to survive it." --Geoffrey C. Ward, coauthor of The Civil War and author of A Disposition to Be Rich "Emotionally harrowing . . . McFarland manages to find something new to say about a war that could have had everything said about it already . . . A moving account of one soldier's journey to hell and back, and his struggle to make his own individual peace with the world afterward." --Publishers Weekly Praise for Dennis McFarland "McFarland is a Divine Watchmaker of a novelist." --Newsweek "A writer of extraordinary sympathy and compassion that are remarkably free from sentimentality." --Boston Sunday Globe "McFarland is heir to the great Southern literary tradition, and his observations, however somber in import or lyrical in delivery, are always laced with a splendid appreciation of life's absurdities." --The Wall Street Journal "McFarland has to be counted one of the brightest hopes for the literate American novel. I don't think there's a writer alive who wouldn't like to have written some of his sentences . . . You want to compare him to Chopin or Mendelssohn more than to any particular writer." --Hartford Courant
"Walt Whitman, who haunts the pages of this sensitive, ingenious, beautifully written novel, famously said that the real Civil War would 'never get into the books.' Nostalgia deftly explores an aspect of war little understood in Whitman's time or in our own--the invisible wounds combat inflicts upon many of those who somehow manage to survive it." --Geoffrey C. Ward, coauthor of The Civil War and author of A Disposition to Be Rich "Emotionally harrowing . . . McFarland manages to find something new to say about a war that could have had everything said about it already . . . A moving account of one soldier's journey to hell and back, and his struggle to make his own individual peace with the world afterward." --Publishers Weekly Praise for Dennis McFarland "McFarland is a Divine Watchmaker of a novelist." --Newsweek "A writer of extraordinary sympathy and compassion that are remarkably free from sentimentality."-- Boston Sunday Globe "McFarland is heir to the great Southern literary tradition, and his observations, however somber in import or lyrical in delivery, are always laced with a splendid appreciation of life's absurdities."-- The Wall Street Journal "McFarland has to be counted one of the brightest hopes for the literate American novel. I don't think there's a writer alive who wouldn't like to have written some of his sentences . . . You want to compare him to Chopin or Mendelssohn more than to any particular writer."-- Hartford Courant
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, July 2013
Library Journal, August 2013
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Summaries
Description for Library
McFarland, already a best-selling author, is here being positioned for even bigger things. In winter 1864, 19-year-old Brooklynite Summerfield Hayes joins the fighting but soon finds himself abandoned by his comrades during the Wilderness Campaign. At a military hospital, Walt Whitman becomes his advocate.
Main Description
From best-selling author Dennis McFarland, an extraordinary Civil War novel: the journey of a nineteen-year-old private abandoned by his comrades in the Wilderness, struggling to regain his voice, his identity, and his place in a world utterly changed by what he has experienced on the battlefield. In the winter of 1864, young Summerfield Hayes, a pitcher for the famous Eckford Club, enlists in the Union army, leaving his sister, a schoolteacher, devastated and alone in their Brooklyn home. The siblings, who have recently lost both their parents, are unusually attached, and Summerfield fears his untoward secret feelings for his sister. This rich backstory is intercut with stunning scenes of Hayess soul-altering hours on the march and at the front--the slaughter of barely grown young men who, only days before, whooped it up with him in a regimental ball game; his temporary deafness and disorientation after a shell blast; his fevered attempt to find safe haven after he has been deserted by his own comrades--and, later, in the Washington military hospital where he eventually finds himself, now mute and unable even to write his name. In this twilit realm, among the people he encounters--a compassionate drug-addicted amputee, the ward matron who only appears to be his enemy, the captain who is convinced that Hayes is faking his illness--is a gray-bearded eccentric who visits the ward daily and becomes his strongest advocate: Walt Whitman. This timeless story, whose outcome hinges on the fellowship that is forged in crisis, reminds us how deep are the wounds of war, not all of which are visible.
Main Description
From best-selling author Dennis McFarland, an extraordinary Civil War novel: the journey of a nineteen-year-old private abandoned by his comrades in the Wilderness, struggling to regain his voice, his identity, and his place in a world utterly changed by what he has experienced on the battlefield. In the winter of 1864, young Summerfield Hayes, a pitcher for the famous Eckford Club, enlists in the Union army, leaving his sister, a schoolteacher, devastated and alone in their Brooklyn home. The siblings, who have recently lost both their parents, are unusually attached, and Summerfield fears his untoward secret feelings for his sister. This rich backstory is intercut with stunning scenes of Hayes's soul-altering hours on the march and at the front-the slaughter of barely grown young men who, only days before, whooped it up with him in a regimental ball game; his temporary deafness and disorientation after a shell blast; his fevered attempt to find safe haven after he has been deserted by his own comrades-and, later, in the Washington military hospital where he eventually finds himself, now mute and unable even to write his name. In this twilit realm, among the people he encounters-a compassionate drug-addicted amputee, the ward matron who only appears to be his enemy, the captain who is convinced that Hayes is faking his illness-is a gray-bearded eccentric who visits the ward daily and becomes his strongest advocate: Walt Whitman. This timeless story, whose outcome hinges on the fellowship that is forged in crisis, reminds us how deep are the wounds of war, not all of which are visible.
Main Description
This stunning Civil War novel from best-selling author Dennis McFarland brings us the journey of a nineteen-year-old private, abandoned by his comrades in the Wilderness, who is struggling to regain his voice, his identity, and his place in a world utterly changed by what he has experienced on the battlefield. In the winter of 1864, Summerfield Hayes, a pitcher for the famous Eckford Club, enlists in the Union army, leaving his sister, a schoolteacher, devastated and alone in their Brooklyn home. The siblings, who have lost both their parents, are unusually attached, and Hayes fears his untoward secret feelings for his sister. This rich backstory is intercut with scenes of his soul-altering hours on the march and at the front--the slaughter of barely grown young men who only days before whooped it up with him in a regimental ball game; his temporary deafness and disorientation after a shell blast; his fevered attempt to find safe haven after he has been deserted by his own comrades--and, later, in a Washington military hospital, where he finds himself mute and unable even to write his name. In this twilit realm, among the people he encounters--including a compassionate drug-addicted amputee, the ward matron who only appears to be his enemy, and the captain who is convinced that Hayes is faking his illness--is a gray-bearded eccentric who visits the ward daily and becomes Hayes's strongest advocate: Walt Whitman. This timeless story, whose outcome hinges on friendships forged in crisis, reminds us that the injuries of war are manifold, and the healing goodness in the human soul runs deep and strong.

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