Book Review: April Morning by Howard Fast
“Yesterday, he was a boy. Tonight, he’s not.” “Now what kind of thing is that to say? That’s exactly the kind of thing a man says. I don’t understand that kind of talk. A boy doesn’t turn into a man overnight. It takes learning and growing and hurting. And most of all it takes time.” “Sometimes,” Father said slowly, “we don’t have time.”
The opening of the American War of Independence through the eyes and emotions of a Lexington teen. Outstanding depth of consciousness. The reader is dragged along as Adam Cooper is yanked out of his very conventional colonial New England childhood into a frightening and blood-soaked adulthood on the day world history changed .
“Then I realized that at this range, even if some of the bird shot did reach the redcoats, it would sting no harder than a mosquito. It was a great relief to find some sensible reason not to go on shooting.”
So much better than other fiction by Fast. Is this the normal or an aberration? Fast captures the feel of the times in the syntax and the ideas the permeate this story. As an eyewitness, Adam doesn’t see or know everything—especially not who fired that shot—but he does filter the action through a realistic, immersive point of view.
“Nobody fights in God’s cause,” the Reverend replied sharply. “Isn’t it enough to kill in freedom’s name? No one kills in God’s cause. He can only ask God’s forgiveness.”
Quibble: Modernity creeps in at the edges. Words like “subconscious” are jarringly out of place. The treatment of native American and women is noticeably better than the norm of those days, but plausible given the family ethic portrayed. Occasional typos mar the text.
“It doesn’t make one bit of sense that the British are coming up with a real army. I mean, what for? I mean, why on earth would they want to start a war? You always read about wars. But no one ever explains why a war starts. They just start.”
What was General Gage thinking? By all accounts, he was trying to subdue or seduce the colonists back into the imperial fold, despite hawkish subordinates. How then could he imagine that an armed incursion into the Massachusetts country would not trigger a fight? (When Governor Dunmore stole the Virginia militia’s powder the next day (which was too coincidental to be coincidental), “the shot heard ‘round the world” had already been fired. And he almost got a fight, too.) Once the sword of war is pulled, for whatever reason, it’s hard to scabbard.
“The April morning when I departed properly belonged in a past so distant and different that it could hardly be evoked. Even if all the scars were healed, nothing would ever be the same again.”