Tom Rivers: Latest ‘Tale’ selection could inspire to pick up a pen

Thursday, February 2, 2012 
By Tom Rivers 

This year’s community reading pick, “The Call” by Yannick Murphy, may be the most peculiar book I’ve ever read — full of tragedy, ominous visits from “the spaceman,” and lots of sick horses. (The main character is a veterinarian.)

I read the book in November, soon after it was announced as “A Tale for Three Counties.” This is the 10th “Tale” and I think the community should be proud this project has stayed alive and gained more participants in recent years, most notably through a partnership with Genesee Community College. Teenagers to senior citizens delve into these books.

When Murphy visits the area March 22-24 for a series of book talks, she will receive rock star treatment, with crowds packing local venues. I’ve attended the events at Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia, and it’s standing-room-only with more than 150 people packed in the building. The authors seem overwhelmed by the turnout and our swarm of passionate readers.

Tale organizers estimate that at least 1,000 people will read the book and attend Tale events. But the Tale spreads far beyond our community. “There are a lot of people who share the book with their friends and family in other areas,” said Leslie DeLooze, one of the Tale organizers and a reference and community services librarian at Richmond.

In “The Call,” Murphy explores a family’s struggle to maintain stability after its eldest son is seriously injured in a hunting accident. A hunter accidentally shoots the son, who then falls out of a tree stand and into a coma. The hunter never confesses to the incident, and the boy’s father becomes consumed with finding out who shot his son.

I don’t want to give away the story. It takes some crazy turns. I’ve told some of the Tale organizers that I thought the book was strange.

“We liked it because it was different,” DeLooze told me. “We don’t want to fall into the trap of picking the same book over and over.”

She thinks the book can prompt discussions about forgiveness and husband-wife relationships, especially during a stressful time. Other people told me they like how the book details the mundane actions of life, especially when the world seems like it stops after a tragedy. The veterinarian and his family have to keep on living, even while the son fights for his life. The vet still has calls, and he needs to treat those animals in order to pay his bills.

This book isn’t written like a novel, with tidy chapters. It’s told through the vet’s log. It tells what he eats for dinner, what he does for his job each day, and his thoughts while interacting with his family and clients.

Most of his log entries are just quick reflections. I think the book highlights the value of writing something, how putting down words can help a person cope with a tragedy and try to make some sense of the world. The words don’t have to be fancy or time-consuming essays.

I know it seems a bit old-fashioned, but I think we’d all do well to keep a “log,” a diary or whatever you want to call it. It can help a person process life’s events, especially those unsuspected hardships.

I also think a log would be a gift to the author’s family. My grandfather served in World War II and later worked in a steel mill in Dunkirk. He lost the fingers on his right hand in a work accident, but still managed to create rubber-band guns and other toys for the grandkids in his wood shop. He played a mean game of pool, cared for swans and ducks, and loved to go fishing.

I wish he had kept a log, even if he just wrote about what he ate for dinner or how the fish were biting. I think he had a lot to say.

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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