In her 0.33 work of historic fiction, Kathleen Rooney takes her gift for inhabiting captivating real-life figures in an interesting new direction. Both of the narrators in Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey have been lauded for his or her heroic moves in World War I: Major Charles Whittlesey, chief of the famous “Lost Battalion,” and Cher Ami, a courageous homing pigeon. As in her previous novels, 2012’s Robinson Alone and 2017’s bestselling Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, Rooney provides historical context that is straight away sweeping and specific, and her affinity for research is clear in info both adorable and harrowing.
Charming, contemplative Cher Ami speaks from a show at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, wherein her taxidermied body has been at the back of glass considering the fact that her 1919 death. She reflects on her homing-pigeon schooling in Britain and her service in WWI, where she crossed paths with the major. Charles, an intelligent and sort man laid low with PTSD, harks again to his prewar life in New York City, where he had a regulation partnership and spent evenings travelling neighborhoods wherein he may want to meet other closeted gay men.
The two percentage their stories of a 1918 conflict in France’s Argonne Forest, in which their battalion was trapped for 5 terrifying days. Cut off from supplies, surrounded by means of the enemy and, in a final insult, pelted with shells fired by using fellow American troops, they had been saved by way of Cher Ami’s shipping of a essential message. The press and the Army showered Charles and Cher Ami with honors and praise, but recollections linger: the trenches, filled with chance and death; institutional incompetence that left the squaddies vulnerable; and the discomfort of seeing feathered and human buddies die.
Rooney makes a sturdy case for thinking about options to war, considering who we name heroes and why, and offering animals more empathy and respect. This is a creative, heartfelt, edifying reimagining of an essential event in World War I history, as visible via the eyes of two amazing individuals.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Kathleen Rooney illuminates the not likely heroes of Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey.