In the Shadow of War

 Description of  In the Shadow of War

Glen Kinsella has just finished opening all his high school graduation cards proclaiming him to be on the doorstep of an exciting life. But as the summer of 1970 begins, Glen is living with his deluded grandfather and an array of desperate residents in a Midwestern prairie town that has withered to near-extinction – a town populated primarily by the sagging shells of long abandoned houses.

Hope is not one of Glen’s traits. In high school, he was known as the retard’s brother. He never had a date, nor even tried to be on speaking terms with someone as sophisticated as Suzanne. But as his grandfather always said, anything is possible in Corcoran. And in the summer of 1970, that prediction appears to be finally coming true.

After decades of planning the revival of his beloved town, Glen’s grandfather convinces a group of women whose husbands have been sent to Vietnam to live in Corcoran. Soon they begin renovating an old ballroom, where Suzanne will perform for the grand opening. But all this new life is threatened when a disgraced war vet arrives, harboring a secret about one of the husbands that will thrust the town into the center of political controversy.

Reviews of In the Shadow of War

This is a good “coming of age” story about Ben in the summer of 1970 and what he goes through as his town is one of the last ones to build a bomb shelter (on the brink of the cold war). It goes through life in a large Catholic family in a small town. This was definitely a good book and I liked the epilogue the best, it tugged at my heartstrings.

Recommending In the Shadow of War as a “worthwhile fiction from a local author,” book critic Mary Ann Grossman writes: “Set in 1970, this tender story centers on Glen, whose brother is brain-damaged. The boys spend summers with their Grandfather O’Shea in Corcoran, a dying town in western Minnesota.  But Grandpa is an optimist, always ‘boasting that Corcoran was on the edge of a comeback.’

Glenn returns to Corcoran the summer after he graduates from high school, but it isn’t the same because his brother has died.  Glen’s worried about the war in Vietnam, and he isn’t thrilled when his grandfather invites some women whose husbands are in the service to move into empty houses.  But the women bring the town to life, and Glen learns from them.

Unlike some authors who write about young people and never seem to finish their story, Garry tells his readers what happens to Glen later in life, tying up loose ends and offering a satisfying conclusion.”
St. Paul Pioneer Press

“If I were still teaching my course in Contemporary American Novel, I would include In the Shadow of War on the reading list.  Among the great strengths of the novel are the irresistible narrator and the irresistibly sympathetic Ricky.  Moreover, the exceptionally full and vivid characterizations make for a rich reading experience.  And the ending is deeply moving, containing some of the best writing I have ever read.”
-Michael A. Hollister, Ph.D – author and former professor of 32 years in the English Department of Portland State University.

“Patrick M. Garry’s first published novel, In the Shadow of War, chronicles Glen’s summer following his high school graduation. The year was 1970. The location was his grandfather’s “blinker” town (“If you blink as you’re driving along the highway, you miss them”): Corcoran, population – six. Although Glen had spent his summers in Corcoran since the age of nine, this was the first summer he went without Ricky. For both Glen and his grandfather, it was a summer of hope.  And acceptance.  And maybe even forgiveness.”

In the Shadow of War highlights what Garry does best as a novelist: pulling together an unlikely cast of characters with quirks and foibles and creating a sense of community among them. His characters show the full spectrum of what it means to be human and in its truth, his world of misfits is more appealing than any magazine picture or movie.”

“Garry’s stripping of humanity down to the emotional basics is complemented by his poignant prose evoking a simpler time and place. Chapter titles and unique observations displayed in comparison and simile usage add to the reminiscent quality of the narrative. Garry’s writing is both tender and sensitive while displaying a wry sense of humor… In the Shadow of War is an engaging and thought-provoking read that will leave you with a renewed compassion for the people in your own life, including yourself.
– Midwest Book Reviews
(view full review here)

The writing is sophisticated and conveys this author’s understanding of the ways of the heart, and his compassion for the human experience with all of its ups and downs. Patrick Garry paints a vivid portrait of American small town life, and the plot has a unique premise and is well executed.
Writer’s Digest, International Book Awards

“I loved this novel, and stayed up til 1a.m. to finish it.”
-Frank DeMarco, Chief Editor, Hampton Roads Publishing, Co.

In the Shadow of War is a very intriguing story with solid characters.
-Jon Hassler, Novelist

“This book is a wonderful story of a community that comes together with a purpose because of the war and faces challenges because of the war. The relationships between all the characters are dynamic, and they work together toward a common goal. The ending is very much a surprise, and you won’t be able to stop until you get there. It’s a great short read.
-Book Reviewer for

This book set in the Vietnam Era reads easily and immediately puts the reader in the small midwestern town of Corcoran.  Although there was tension in the plot, the geographical setting and the honest voices of the characters made it such a peaceful read. Garry’s characters are sensitive and romantic oddballs during a dysfunctional time of history—people caring so deeply about each other while all along discovering so  much about themselves.  He does a great job of expressing their feelings with whom the reader can both understand and relate.  As we read this book, some of us found ourselves looking at the clock hoping it was late enough to “turn in for the night” and read this book.
-Greenville Book Club

On recommended reading list in Dakota County Library: Wescott Branch Library, Eagan, MN.

Literary Awards

Winner, 2010 NIE Award for General Fiction