The Hundred Hearts

"If it is true, and I think it is, that literature often serves as a sounding board for the collective psychic preoccupations of a particular time and place, then it is perhaps not surprising, in our post millennial financial implosion world, that the American Dream is receiving some pointed literary scrutiny these days. If it is also true that one sees one’s culture most clearly from a distance, then it seems doubly fitting that transplanted American (now Canadian)  William Kowalski, should be the author of The Hundred Hearts, a novel that explores with clear-sighted empathy, exceptional dialogue and characterization, honesty, and, counterintuitively, much wry humour, the intricate relationship that exists between that dream, and the soldiers deployed in its defense."

"Both Jeremy and his grandfather Al, are war veterans with dark secrets to guard, and who have, each in his own way, struggled with reintegration into his community and his country.  Although now apparently recovered, Al suffered for many years after his return from the Vietnam War, from depression and alcoholism. The collateral damage was, for the family, significant and the tracing of its ongoing effects is one of the major preoccupations of the story."

"The story begins on what seems to be an optimistic note for Jeremy, as he begins his new career as a high school physics teacher in Elysium, after five years of struggle to recover from physical and emotional injuries incurred in an IED bomb blast while on duty in Afghanistan. He returned from service with spinal cord damage which left him with chronic pain alleviated only by the use of medical marijuana, significant memory issues, and a raging case of PTSD.  The sense of optimism, however, is quickly challenged as Jeremy’s essential honesty leaves him open to manipulation, and he is entangled in a career-threatening situation involving an unstable female student, her possibly crazy Gulf War veteran father, and potentially bad cop stepbrother.  Although initially masked by his aversion to complaining, the reader also gradually becomes aware of the extent of Jeremy’s disabilities,  and to appreciate the heroism involved, for him, in everyday living."

"Along the way, one is invited to examine the ancient and profound contract between soldier and country. This contract, already complex, is exponentially complicated when the national ideology, the American Dream, has, itself, come increasingly into question."

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William Kowalski
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