Lizzie's War: A Novel by Tim Farrington | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
Lizzie's War: A Novel

Lizzie's War: A Novel

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by Tim Farrington

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A family epic laced with authenticity, wit and unforgettable characters. Liz O'Reilly has a husband in Vietnam, 4 kids under the age of 12 (and one on the way), and a burgeoning crush on the family priest. An unconventional love story.

It's Summer 1967 and Mike O'Reilly's just shipped out to Vietnam. Liz O'Reilly is trying to keep it all together for their


A family epic laced with authenticity, wit and unforgettable characters. Liz O'Reilly has a husband in Vietnam, 4 kids under the age of 12 (and one on the way), and a burgeoning crush on the family priest. An unconventional love story.

It's Summer 1967 and Mike O'Reilly's just shipped out to Vietnam. Liz O'Reilly is trying to keep it all together for their four kids – 6 year old Deb–Deb (who believes she is an otter), 8 year old Angus, Kathie, (who at age 9 helps to integrate the local Blue Bird troop with her best friend Temperance), and 11 year old Danny – the spitting image of Mike. While Mike is off fighting "his" war, Liz struggles with her own desires and yearnings – to pick up the theatre career she abandoned when Danny was born, to care for the four children she loves fiercely yet also occasionally resents, to leave the backdoor unlocked so she always has an escape route. While set during the conflict in Vietnam, Farrington's novel captures the other side of any war – that of the war at home and the careening emotions of the spouses and families left behind.

Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
Farrington’s urgent, moving narrative turns the war novel on its head. It’s 1967, and while Mike O’Reilly, a career marine, is getting shot at in Vietnam, his wife, Lizzie, is dodging domestic shrapnel: she’s two months into an unplanned pregnancy, she flinches every time the doorbell rings, and her four children, at school, are hearing that their father is a baby-killer. While Mike’s active-duty letters, full of mud and gore, form part of the story, it is Farrington’s unsparing account of Lizzie’s life at home—the desperately untidy house, her small attempts to carve out time for herself, her mounting anxiety—that takes the novel beyond its particular time and place and makes it a captivating study of tenderness and blame.
Publishers Weekly
Liz and Mike O'Reilly's marriage weathers the Vietnam War in Farrington's fourth novel (after The Monk Downstairs), a well-crafted but somewhat timeworn story about a military family's stoicism in the field and on the home front. Capt. Michael O'Reilly, USMC, ships out from Okinawa for Da Nang, while back home in Detroit, where the streets are afire from the 1967 riots, a pregnant Liz struggles alone to raise their four children. Mike is "turned toward battle like a plant toward the sun," but Liz quietly curses the Marine Corp and draws on hidden reserves of strength to be a good Catholic wife and mother. As commander of a beleaguered company in Vietnam, Mike is badly wounded and further strains the marriage when he returns to combat instead of coming home. Meanwhile, a near miscarriage in her third trimester almost costs Liz her life, but she decides to keep the baby rather than guarantee her own survival. Farrington's graceful prose moves the engaging narrative along at a brisk clip, but tough, noble Mike and tough, big-hearted Liz remain mired in type. The result is a compassionate but unambitious novel about enduring marital love and family ties during wartime from an author who was willing to take greater risks in his earlier works. Agent, Laurie Fox. 13-city tour. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Farrington (The Monk Downstairs) beautifully braids together an American soldier's view of the Vietnam War, a study of his struggling wife and children, and an introspective look at a Catholic priest questioning his faith. As the Detroit riots of 1967 unfold, Elizabeth O'Reilly, pregnant with her fifth child, prepares to send her marine captain husband, Michael, off to fight in Vietnam. Both are desperate to maintain some semblance of normalcy, with Lizzie struggling on the home front and Mike muddling through battle with his grim and quirky wit still intact. Father Ezekiel Germaine, himself a Vietnam veteran, is suffering from his own nightmares, as well as doubts about the existence of God and second thoughts about his friendship with Lizzie. The story, which spans one year in these characters' lives, serves as a microcosmic overview of the troubled times. Innumerable novels have delineated U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, but this poetic and tender book chronicles its devastating developments and highlights the commitments, fears, and desires of a family and those closely related. Recommended for popular fiction collections.-Andrea Tarr, Alta Loma, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A moist-eyed story switches between the grim work of a Marine captain in Vietnam and the hand-wringing of his wife and children back in Virginia. When she married Mike O'Reilly, Lizzie was an aspiring actress at Catholic University and intent on having a "deep, literate veteran" for a husband, one who was worldly and wrote novels. Instead, by August 1967, he's stuck in Vietnam, making a career of the war, while Lizzie and their four children-she's pregnant with the fifth-live in dread of the moment when the bad news will be delivered to her door in suburban Virginia. While Lizzie fills her days trying to distract her children with numbing domestic chores, and with making the dreaded visit to another Marine wife who has just heard the news of her husband's death, Mike, overseas, is assigned a new company called Heartbreak Hotel and has to get in line "the usual USMC-issue array of maniacs, morons, stone-cold killers, and fuckups." In letters home, written from line-of-fire outposts like Dong Ha, Mike hints at the ghastly killings (the men who "bought it") and the affecting camaraderie among the members of the company. Meanwhile, Lizzie sews her daughter's bluebird uniform for Girl Scouts and befriends the lonely priest at St. Jude's, Father Germaine, who is having his own spiritual crisis and finds solace in drinking with Lizzie and even flirting with her. Mike is wounded, despite all his assurances that the war is safer than living in Nebraska, and, finally, Lizzie learns from an alarming news report on TV where her husband really is, Khe Sanh, South Vietnam, surrounded by Viet Cong: the parallel to Dien Bien Phu is eerie. Yet even with Mike wounded and Lizzie in a difficult labor,Farrington (The Monk Downstairs, 2002) has woven such an idyllic family unit that nothing can undermine it. Smooth writing, honest characters, predictable outcome. Author tour
“Farrington is a natural-born storyteller...A memorable family story told with wry humor and fluent prose.”
New York Newsday
“Throughout Lizzie’s War, Farrington has an ear for the changing time signatures and keys of uncomfortable, revealing moments.”
Pages Magazine
“Featuring scenes from the home front as well as Southeast Asia, Farrington’s family epic is compelling, honest, and poignant.”
The Oregonian (Portland)
“[A] memorable novel about love, commitment and family during wartime.”
Lolly Winston
"A touching love story....Lizzie is smart, funny, acerbic, and lovable. Her story shot straight to my heart."
Lorna Landvik
"This is a work of deep humanity; its poetry and humor are added bonuses."
—Lorna Landvik
“This is a work of deep humanity; its poetry and humor are added bonuses.”
—Lolly Winston
“A touching love story....Lizzie is smart, funny, acerbic, and lovable. Her story shot straight to my heart.”
--Lorna Landvik
“This is a work of deep humanity; its poetry and humor are added bonuses.”
--Lolly Winston
“A touching love story....Lizzie is smart, funny, acerbic, and lovable. Her story shot straight to my heart.”

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Read an Excerpt

Lizzie's War
A Novel

Chapter One

July 1967

Detroit was burning. The midsummer sun that had made the Ohio turnpikes the usual ordeal seemed suddenly uncertain, caught in the sludge of a smoky sky like a pale orange dime stamped into hot blacktop. In the chastened light, her hometown was ominously unfamiliar. Even the freeway signs seemed ambiguous, inexact translations from the language of her childhood. Elizabeth O'Reilly was disoriented -- she refused to use the word lost -- and she was running out of gas.

There were almost no other vehicles on the road, not even cabs and buses. That was the most unnerving thing of all. She always made these visits to her parents braced for traffic, the proud clogged streets of the Motor City, the mass of good American steel in motion. She recalled glimpsing a newspaper headline the day before, something about riots, but she hadn't taken the news seriously. Detroit was ever volatile, and the newspapers loved to blow a few broken windows up into chaos in the streets. She'd been too busy seeing her husband off to Vietnam to fret about such things.

In the seat beside her, Liz's eight-year-old daughter, Katherine, fiddled with the radio, looking for the Beatles. Since the release of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in June, Kathie and her friends had been in an ecstasy of grief, sobbing through a series of candlelit pajama parties over the death of Paul, which was obvious from the rose he was holding on the album cover. Liz found all the preadolescent intensity a little much. But Kathie was susceptible to extremes of poignancy. At Dulles Airport the previous Wednesday, she'd clung to her father and wailed. She was sure that he was going away to die, like Paul.Mike, stiff in his dress greens and self-conscious in public, his beautiful black hair buzzed close to his skull by some fanatic Marine barber, patted her with a pained air and told her it was no big deal, it was just his job and he'd be home soon. He was uncomfortable with emotional extravagance -- with any emotion at all, really, Liz thought ruefully. She knew her husband just wanted to get off to his war without a lot of fuss, and she'd tried to rein Kathie in a bit. But her heart wasn't in it; she'd even felt a surreptitious gratitude for the frankness of her daughter's horror. Kathie was wailing for all of them. She was just prepared to be louder about it.

Liz heard something that sounded like gunfire close by. Or maybe a backfire. Surely a backfire, she told herself. She could see no flames, but the smoke was denser now, sifting in sinister threads across the freeway. As Kathie continued to wade through the radio's stations, Liz caught a snatch of feverish news coverage -- "... in a twelve-block area east of Twelfth Street ..." -- but her daughter skipped past it blithely. Liz almost told her to go back, then decided not to press the issue. There was no sense getting everyone all worked up.

In the back of the Fairlane station wagon, her other three children occupied themselves with the quiet ease of seasoned travelers. Between the moves imposed by the Marine Corps every couple years and frequent trips to their scattered relatives, they'd spent a lot of their childhoods in cars. Deborah, the youngest at five years old, was reading An Otter's Tale for perhaps the fiftieth time, oblivious to the mayhem nearby, her china blue eyes and perfect round face composed. She had already finished the book once this trip, somewhere on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and had turned back to the first page and started over immediately. As Liz watched her now in the rearview mirror, a siren began to scream in the burning inner city to their right. Her younger daughter turned a page. She had an air of serenity, like a child in a dream.

Beside Deb-Deb, Angus, seven, pressed his face against the window on the freeway side of the car. He had been counting license plates since Maryland and was up to thirty-seven states. The paucity of traf- fic was the only effect of Detroit's upheaval that he seemed to have noticed so far. Behind him, in the station wagon's rear well, Danny, the oldest at ten years old, had put his biography of Stonewall Jackson aside and turned toward the smoke, his brow wrinkled just like his father's would have been, more in alertness than in fear. He met Liz's gaze briefly in the rearview mirror, his glance both sober and excited, and she felt the weird camaraderie she had felt with him almost from the moment he was born, the sense of someone home behind those blue-gray eyes. It was oddly comforting. And, sometimes, scary.

The children didn't know it yet, but there was a fifth passenger. Liz was six weeks pregnant. It had been a catastrophe of sorts, a classic Catholic mistake. The last thing she wanted. But there it was. She could feel the new life inside her as a hotter place, a burning spot, as if she had swallowed a live coal. And as a weight, tilting some inner scale toward helpless rage. It wasn't something she wanted to feel. She had more than enough guilt and ambivalence with the children already born.

The maddening static gave way abruptly to music. Kathie had fi- nally found a station to her satisfaction.

What would you do if I sang out of tune?
Would you stand up and walk out on me?

"I see a tank!" Angus exclaimed.

"There aren't any tanks in Detroit," Liz said firmly, wondering if it was true.

"That's an APC," Danny offered from the back of the car.

"Wow!" Angus twisted in his seat to get a better look."Hey, look at all that smoke!"

Lizzie's War
A Novel
. Copyright © by Tim Farrington. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are saying about this

Lolly Winston
“A touching love story....Lizzie is smart, funny, acerbic, and lovable. Her story shot straight to my heart.”
Lorna Landvik
“This is a work of deep humanity; its poetry and humor are added bonuses.”

Meet the Author

Tim Farrington is the author of Lizzie's War, The Monk Downstairs,—a New York Times Notable Book—and The Monk Upstairs, as well as the critically acclaimed novels The California Book of the Dead and Blues for Hannah.

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Lizzie's War 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
just-a-thot More than 1 year ago
A great story about the Vietnam War from the wife of a marine captain leading an assault against the North Vietnames government. She is the mother of 4 young ones and one on the way, Catholic, and living within a Virginia Beach community of other Vietnam war "wives and families". I especially liked the wives talking about when "the 2 marines knock at your front door. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This look at a wife and mother waiting for her husband to come home from Vietnam has moments that will wrench your heart and moments that will make you laugh. The letters between husband and wife provide an authentic feel to the war time drama. I enjoyed this so much that I sought out other Tim Farrington books.
ibrockinrobin More than 1 year ago
I found this book a great read from cover to cover. I am an avid reader of Vietnam War material and this book was a refreshing look from a wife's perspective keeping the homefront going and at the same time being the anchor for her husband in Vietnam.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I kept comparing Vietnam in the book with the current situation in Iraq. If most military men are like the husband, they need their heads examined. I felt much more compassion for the priest whom the author dropped too quickly.