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War Stories Book Summary:

We all carry our own battle scars.

This is the premise of War Stories, a rich collection of short fiction that draws upon both the literal and figurative meaning of its title. Through a diverse array of characters, settings, and circumstances, War Stories delivers a series of powerful tales from the home front of war: the stories of parents, siblings, and spouses of those who have fought, as well as those who have returned from battle.

Set against the backdrop of contemporary conflicts, War Stories’ compelling nine narratives tell of a wounded veteran who seeks renewal through an imagined relationship with a neighborhood girl, a grieving father who finds peace and reconciliation at the site of a disastrous bus crash, a young woman who searches for identity and meaning in the wake of her husband’s injury, and an urban teenager engaged in a fateful standoff with local recruiters. Interspersed with these tales are powerful, non-traditional “war stories” – of youth, unexpected loss, and heartbreaking love.

War Stories’ thoughtful and beautifully crafted tales, which range in style from deceptively simple to rich and complex, tell of people young and old, male and female, who share two things: humanity and resilience. These diverse and deftly written stories are joined through Elisabeth Doyle’s remarkable style and ease in creating a universe full of despair, hope, and dreams. At turns tender and harsh, tragic and yearning, these stories will leave you wanting more.

My Thoughts

The summary caught my attention when I heard about this book. As I have mostly written short stories until recently, I love reading collections like this. I have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled with some of it- it reminded me a bit of Hemingway and I have never really been a fan of his style. I’ve always found him to be a bit repetitive and dry, but Ms. Doyle does manage to add a little more personality into it. The first story, in particular, was a bit hard to get through.

That said, I did enjoy aspects of it. I remember being told several times in our one writer’s club about the importance of using the senses in your writing; to get the sights, smells and tastes across to the reader. Ms. Doyle manages to do this pretty well and I found myself enjoying some of the later stories. There were two in particular that captured my attention. One was about a woman who takes a job photographing babies, while the other took place on an ill-fated flight.

Like the title suggests, several of the stories deal with people who are or were part of the military. Ms. Doyle drives home just how hard their lives can be and what they sacrifice for our safety. One can’t help but read about their troubled lives  after coming home and feel sad for them, as well as wanting our government to do more to make sure they get every bit of care and support they need.

Bottom line: it wasn’t my favorite, but if you’re a fan of Hemingway’s style, you’ll enjoy it.

Elisabeth Doyle’s Bio

Elisabeth Doyle is a writer and attorney living in Washington, D.C. She studied fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College and the University at Albany, and is completing a Masters of Laws Degree at Georgetown University Law Center. Ms. Doyle’s short fiction was published in the literary journal Nadir and was awarded the University at Albany’s Lovenheim Prize for best short fiction. Her first short film, Hard Hearted One, was admitted into the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema and the Street Films Film Festival, and was shown on Public Television and Manhattan Cable. War Stories is her first collection of short fiction.

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