“Yannick Murphy, while being one of our most daring andoriginal writers, is first and foremost an exquisitely attuned observer ofhuman behavior. . . . Murphy’s work provides pretty much unexceededreading pleasure.” —Dave Eggers
Thewarm, wry, and patient voice of a veterinarian father tells the heartfelt storyof his young New England family enduring a moving trial of loyalty, hope, andfaith after they are confronted with an unthinkable crisis. Acclaimed author Yannick Murphy’s intimate narrative style and lovely prosewill enthrall readers of Rivka Galchen,Padgett Powell, and Murphy’s own Signed, Mata Hari.The Call is a “triumph of quiet humorand understated beauty” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) from anauthor that the New York Times Book Review calls “an extraordinarilygifted fabulist.”
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About the Author
Yannick Murphy is the author of The Call; Signed, Mata Hari; Here They Come; and The Sea of Trees, as well as two story collections and several children's books. She is the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, a Chesterfield Screenwriting Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Laurence L. & Thomas Winship/PEN New England Award. Her work has appeared in The Best American Nonrequired Reading and The O. Henry Prize Stories. She lives in Vermont with her husband and children.
Read an Excerpt
The CallA Novel
By Yannick Murphy
Harper PerennialCopyright © 2011 Yannick Murphy
All right reserved.
Call: A cow with her dead calf half-born.
Action: Put on boots and pulled dead calf out while standing in
a field full of mud.
Result: Hind legs tore off from dead calf while I pulled. Head,
forelegs, and torso are still inside the mother.
Thoughts on drive home while passing red and gold
leaves on maple trees: Is there a nicer place to live?
What children said to me when I got home: Hi, Pop.
What The wife cooked for dinner: Something mixed-up.
Call: Old woman with minis needs bute paste.
Action: Drove to old woman's house, delivered bute paste. Pet
minis. Learned their namesMolly, Netty, Sunny, and Storm.
Result: Minis are really cute.
Thoughts on drive home: Must bring children back here sometime
to see the cute minis.
What children said to me when I got home: Hi, Pop.
What the wife cooked for dinner: Steak and potatoes, no
salad. She said, David, our salad days are over, it now being autumn
and the garden bare except for wind-tossed fallen leaves.
Call: Sick sheep.
Action: Visited sheep. Noticed they'd eaten all the thistle.
Result: Talked to owner, who is a composer, about classical music.
Admired his tall barn beams. Advised owner to fence off thistle so
sheep couldn't eat it. Sheep become sick from thistle.
Thoughts on drive home: Is time travel possible? Maybe time
is not a thing. Because light takes a while to travel, what we're
seeing is always in the past.
What the wife cooked for dinner: Breakfast.
Call: Castrate draft horse.
Action: Pulled out emasculators, castrated draft horse.
Result: Draft horse bled buckets. Pooled around his hooves.
Owner said she had never seen so much blood. It's okay, he's got
a lot of blood, I said. She nodded. She braided the fringe on her
poncho, watching the blood.
Thoughts on drive home: What's the point of a poncho if it
doesn't cover your arms?
What the wife cooked for dinner: Nut loaf.
What I ate for dinner: Not nut loaf.
Call: Horse is colicking.
Action: Drove to farm dodging dry, brown leaves skating across
the road because at first I thought they were mice or voles running
to the safety of the other side. Gave horse Banamine. Watched him
sweating. Watched him rolling on his stall floor. Watched owner
cry. Just a few tears down a freckled cheek. Listened to horses in
other stalls whinny, worried for the colicky horse.
Result: Stayed for hours, until night. Moon was full. Walked
horse out to field by the apple tree. Gave him a shot to put him to
sleep. Patted his neck. Left owner with her head by his head, not
saying anything. Maybe just breathing in his last exhaled breath.
Thoughts on drive home: When I go I want to go in a field by
an apple tree on a full-moon night.
What I saw when I pulled up to the house: Bright lights in
the sky, an object moving quickly back and forth. Not a plane.
What I heard from children when I got home: Gentle
What I heard from my wife when I got home: Loud snoring.
Call: Sheep with a cut from a fence.
Action: Drove to farm. Inspected sheep. Cut was old. Small white
worms were crawling on it. Gave owner some antibiotic.
Result: Asked owner if he had seen the bright lights in the sky the
night before. Owner shrugged. I go to bed, the owner said.
Thoughts on drive home: Since people have become used to
seeing telephone wires and telephone poles everywhere, they can
get used to seeing wind turbines everywhere. It's just a matter of
getting used to something.
Call: Alpaca down.
Action: Drove to farm. Remembered not to look alpaca in the
Result: Looked alpaca in the eye by mistake. Got spit in the
eye. Alpaca nice and angry now. Alpaca got up. Owner thankful.
Handed me a rag that smelled like gasoline. I wiped my eye. Asked
owner if he had seen the bright lights, the object moving back
and forth in the sky the night before. The owner shook his head,
he hadn't seen anything. The alpaca came to me and put his face
in my face. I thought he was going to spit in my eye again, but he
didn't. The owner laughed, looks like he's trying to tell you something,
the owner said. Did the alpaca want to tell me he had seen
the object in the sky?
Thoughts on drive home: I could have been an engineer or a
Call: A pre-purchase examination on a Thoroughbred.
Action: Brought digital X-ray machine and performed a complete
set of X-rays on horse in a barn with ducks, spaniels, and kittens
Result: Owner tried to give me a kitten to take home to the children.
No, no, I said. We have two dogs. The dogs will love the cat,
the owner said. How about a duck? the owner said. No, they shit
liquid, I said. Yes, that's true, she said, but the eggs are golden.
Thoughts on ride home: Chickens might be nice to have. The
children could check for eggs every day. We could eat the eggs.
Chickens don't shit liquid. This is the problem today, people don't
know where their food comes from. My children will know where
their food comes from.
Call: A sheep needs its shots.
Action: Took bottles of vaccines and drew up shots.
Result: Old woman named Dorothy called the sheep to her. The
sheep's name was Alice. Alice lived in the house with Dorothy. I'd
let her live outside, but she's no bother inside, Dorothy said. Alice lay
her head in Dorothy's lap. Go on, give the shot, Dorothy said. The
sheep was very still while I gave the shot. She is like a dog, Dorothy
said. I take her everywhere in my pickup. She waits for me until I get
back from my errands. I took her into church one day. I showed the
pastor. He made a remark about sheep. He said they were dumb. Go
get Alice from the back of your pickup, my friend said, nudging me.
I went to the parking lot and got Alice. I held the church doors open
for her. She followed me down the aisle. She looked into people's
faces as she walked. I'd like you to meet Alice, I said to the pastor.
She looked him in the eyes. Now go on, I said. Read the part again
in your sermon about how sheep are dumb, I said.
Thoughts on drive home: I know some people who will not
look me in the eye.
What I saw when I pulled up to the house: The object
flying in the sky again. It seemed to circle the house. More likely it
was a drone the military used and remotely practiced with in our
secluded woods, but still I could not help but think it was other-
worldly, the way its lights flashed on and off, the way it flew so low,
as if it wanted to see in our windows and check on what my family
was doing. I felt that it knew me somehow.
What I felt even before I walked in the door: Warm.
Even though it was cold outside, I already began to feel warm as I
stepped onto the porch where the glass front door always seemed
to be constantly steamed over from the exhaled breaths of my wife,
my children, the dogs, and all the other creatures inside.
What children said to me when I got home: Doesn't Alice
pee and poop on the floor in the house?
What I said: I suppose she does.
What the wife cooked for dinner: Omelets with green
What the wife said: David, I don't want a sheep.
Call: A cat.
Action: I told owner I don't do cats. The owner asked if I could do
this one. The owner had shot the fisher cats in his barn that had
eaten half his chickens. Shoot the cat, I said, you have shot fisher cats.
You have done huge horses, why can't you just do a little
house cat whose time has come? the owner said.
Result: I did the cat in the belly. I did not need to find a vein. I
was paid in sausage and bacon.
Thoughts on drive home: This war we are in is a war we started
to see how much we can take from another country. It was once
not so easy for me to see it this way.
What the children said to me when I got home: Mom is
not making dinner. Mom is sick on the couch.
What the wife said to me when I got home: David, where's
the gun? If you just shoot this side of my head, I'm sure it will get
rid of my headache. Then Jen laid her head back on the easy chair
where the sun was streaming in and the bright light on her face
made her look porcelain-white.
What I cooked for dinner: Bacon. Glorious fresh bacon given
to me by the man who shot fisher-cats, not house cats. I showed my
children how the bacon did not release injected water into the pan
while it cooked because it was fresh bacon, good bacon. Bacon the
way bacon should be.
Thoughts while turning bacon: Why is it legal to inject
meats with water? Why is it fair that the consumer has to pay extra
money, per pound, for injected water?
What the children said: Pop, don't burn the bacon.
What the wind said at night: I can blow down all your trees.
I can make the walls of your house fall in.
What the morning said: I kept the wind at bay.
Thoughts while showering: Deer season will be here soon.
Already it is bear. We have heard the hunters and their bear dogs
early on the weekend mornings barking, treeing bears. I will hunt
first with a bow for deer this fall season. I will sit high up in a tree
in a purchased stand that came with big labels telling me never to
use it without wearing a safety harness. I will wear the safety
harness. I will check it before I put it on. Are the straps worn? Is the
buckle fastened securely? Are the deer gods on my side?
What my son said at dinner: Aren't I hunting with you this fall?
He had not hunted with me before, this would be his first time. He
was twelve years old now and old enough to carry a gun. He knew
the rules well. He had aced his hunter's exam. Gun tip pointed up
or down when walking through the woods, never shoot at an animal
on a hill, because you never know who might be on the other side
of the hill, open your chamber when passing your gun to someone
and say, "action open, safety on" while you're passing it.
What I said: Yes, I suppose you're ready to hunt with me now.
What my son said: Yes! I can't wait! and then he chanted, Kill
the deer. Eat the meat! Kill the deer. Eat the meat! in time with
holding his fork in his fist and banging his fist on the table, making
me think maybe we should wait. Maybe he wasn't ready to take a
gun into the woods.
What the wife said to me: Be careful hunting, David. I don't
like it. He's still so young. You only have one son, you know.
What I thought: Maybe Jen is wrong, maybe there are other
sons I have. Who knows if the sperm I once donated in college was
ever used or simply thrown away after time? The money I received
was spent on taking dates to restaurants I wouldn't otherwise have
been able to afford.
What I would never tell the wife: That maybe she was
wrong about me not having other sons, because if I told her then
I would have to explain why I wanted the money. I would have to
explain the other girls, and no matter that I didn't know Jen then,
she might become jealous.
What I said to the wife instead to change the subject:
Did you know that because light takes time to travel, what you're
seeing is always in the past?
What the wife said: I like that, it's the world's best excuse. The
adage "Don't cry over spilt milk" applies to everything then. It's all
in the past, there's nothing we can change.
What I thought: That I could tell Jen not to cry over spilt milk
if ever she learned of how I had earned extra money in college and
that somewhere in there was a pun she'd pick up on, the spilt milk
of me somehow worked in.
Call: No call. The phone rang and when I answered, whoever it
was hung up. Hello, hello, I said and I kept saying hello even after
I knew they were gone.
What we did after dinner: Put on sweaters to keep off the
chill and went outside and called to the owls.
What the owls did: Called back and then the spacecraft showed
up again, its lights blinking faster than the last time, as if it were
trying to sing out its own kind of call.
Excerpted from The Call by Yannick Murphy Copyright © 2011 by Yannick Murphy. Excerpted by permission of Harper Perennial. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
“Yannick Murphy’s The Call, about a family dealing with the consequences of a tragic accident, explores marriage, parenthood, small-town life, medicine, and hope with a sensitivity, skill, and fearlessness that will rattle your bones.”
“This is a wonderful novel. Original, suspenseful, funny and profoundly moving. It’s about family, community, the human bond with animals andoh yeahspaceships. I am in awe of Yannick Murphy’s achievement and I plan to recommend The Call to everyone I know.”
“Yannick Murphy’s beautiful new novel is a stirring example of what a real writer can do with form and feeling. The Call is sly, funny, scary, honest, wonderstruck and, most of all, intensely generous.”
“The Call is an enormously affecting and lovely exploration of ordinary and extraordinary love. In prose that is as grand, startling, and particular as the New England landscape that inhabits her characters . . . Yannick Murphy tells a story that will break and repair your heart.”
“This book delights with its discrete structuring. . . . The pieces snap together in odd juxtaposition, surprising, making a picture more sturdy and dependable than the seamless whole. It has the power of good old Byzantine mosaic.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love this book! It seemed so different and refreshing when I picked it up at the library. I'm so happy that I gave it a chance. I really love Yannick Murphy's unique writing style, which was a little odd at first but which I quickly fell into rhythm with as the story progressed. The characters were complex and far from boring. I really like the main character, he is so real and completely believable. He is far from perfect and he knows it. His sense of humor and insights are hilarious and bring humor in the darkest of moments. In the beginning it put me off that he is a hunter, but once I got to know him more I realized that he truly cares for the animals. (I still find it a little ironic that he is a vet and a hunter at the same time.) He isn't in his job for profit or for recognition. He genuinely cares for the animals and their owners. The fierce love and protection he holds for his family also shines through the book. While the book seems simple enough, it's quite complex in its inspection of the relationships between humans and even other animals. It's a lovely little book which made me laugh and feel for the characters like I knew them personally. Highly recommendable.
A hidden gem in the bookstore. This little book will stay with me for a while. I loved how the narrative embraced both the joy and angst to be found in the simple tasks of daily life. The format, too, is very inventive. I found myself starting to think in that same "journal" style. The main character, so quiet and unassuming, will leave an unexpectedly big footprint on your memory. I highly recommend this book.
This book is certainly unusual, but a veterinarian who hunts animals was a bit much for me.
I loved the different format, I laughed, teared up, winced, sighed and really enjoyed this book
Written as a journal, this is the story of the daily life of a country veterinarian in rural Vermont. It may sound boring or even stupid as you read the entries. The call he gets from his clients, what he does, what his wife makes for dinner or what his kids say to him or not say to him when he gets home. But somehow, they all weave together into a quaint story of his life. As a reader, we get to learn about such a life and the importance of family.
I read this book for our Tale of Three Counties series. I have been a reader of this venue since it's inception. Was disappointed in this selection. It was only a mediocre book. I guess I just did not get it especially the spaceship referance. However the format was interesting and the biological father/son relationship concerning organ transplant was a positive as I am an avid proponent. I'm sure this will lead to a lively disscussion.
A highly original structure moves the pace of this little novel along briskly. As the seasons go by in rural Vermont, a mildly eccentric large animal vet catalogs his work, his family, his dinner and his thoughts. He cures some animals and kills others. He reacts with thoughtful wonder at the beauty and drama of his wife and children. He ponders physics and the recession. And he watches matter-of-factly as the lights of an alien spacecraft circle his house. I found this pretty delightful.
The Call by Yannick Murphy is narrated by a rural vet whose son has been precariously shot by an unknown hunter. As the boy lies in a coma, the man makes his calls and realizes it is most likely that, in his rural home of 600 or so people, his customers know who shot his son, causing him to become obsessed with uncovering the identity of the mystery hunter. All the while, he and his family continously sight an unidentified flying object, which becomes a beacon of hope during their time of crisis.This novel was fresh and beautiful. The narration was original and the author was able to develop the characters with an ease and natural ability that few writers possess. Every sentence in this book seems well thought out and deliberate. In fact, certain passage can be taken for tiny poems. For example: "What is taking place is as layered as something in nature. I won't ever be able to figure it out. It is the pond surface rippling, the meandering grooves of bark on a tree, the tall grass and milkweed leaning over in a strong wind looking like a form of a man lying down on it, only there is no man." (p. 220) "WHAT THE WIFE SAID IN BED WHILE THE LIGHT OF THE FULL MOON CAME IN THROUGH THE WINDOW: Somebody turn off that light." (p. 13) "WHAT THE COYOTES SAY: You have crossed over to where we live and now our howls could be the howls of your own heart you are hearing, or just us, our coats slightly ruffled from the November wind." (p. 34)I highly recommend this book. It would make a wonderful selection for a book club.
This novel lets you live vicariously in rural Vermont, with Martin, Jen and their three young children. They have a simple, full life (not quite homesteaders), but the post 2008 downturn is increasingly affecting his veterinary practice. Theirs are the typical joys and stresses affecting couples raising a family, and Yannick Murphy portrays these extremely well. When tragedy strikes, you share the pain and worry, and witness the changes in the family dynamic, but it is well worth the trip. I finished the book wanting to read her other novels.
I always try to say something positive, but the best I can come up with here is that many people seem to like this book. To me, it was mediocre at best. In fact, I actually disliked it. The author can put together a polished sentence. But the narrator is annoying, as is his wife, and since this is the story of a family, it's hard to keep reading about them. And the book's format, which is set forth as entries in a journal, was extremely annoying.There are many better books to read. I kind of want those hours back.
I over bought on books and haven't had time to read this yet. I plan to start it next. Thank you.