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Old woman with minis needs bute paste

Cover of The Call
A review of The Call by Yannick Murphy

I'm re-upping this review as the new adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small on PBS is bringing James Herriot's books to mind. If you're watching the lovely new version and have already done your Herriot re-read but are still wanting to feel those feelings, The Call is a great companion work.

Yannick Murphy's little novel is elegantly simple (or simply elegant). The simple arises out of the structure the author uses to tell her story. Each journal like entry begins with the Call, followed by the Action, the Result, What the kids said when I got home, What my wife cooked for dinner, etc. The elegant develops as each journal entry deepens the characterizations and the story until you feel like you live in the cozy, creaking house with them.

David Appleton is a large animal vet in rural New England. He gets a call and heads out to help a horse or a cow or a sheep named Alice who lives in a house with Dorothy. With each new case David tells us what the problem was, what actions he took, and the results of those actions. Along the way he gives us reports about his conversations with his customers and his family and as each case is told, so is the story. The straightforward reporting style is deceptive. Each small detail relayed tells a little more about David and his family, their home, his customers and his small town. When a tragedy occurs, you feel it as deeply as David and his wife Jen because you've come to know these people. And though David continues to report his cases you can feel his pain and desperation with each word.

There are a couple of big events in this book but it's not really about them. It's about these people living these lives day to day. It's about getting to know them one snippet of conversation at a time so that by the end you know what it feels like to live in their house.

Jan 22, 2021