Midwest Book Review

Farewell My Country
A. J. Harris
Murder Mystery Press
978-0-9847825-1-2 (paperback)  $16.95
978-0-9847825-2-9 (ebook)    $2.99
978-0-9847825-3-6 (hardback)  $24.95

One might expect that a press called ‘Murder Mystery Press’ would only produce genre works, but Farewell My Country in no way can be labeled as such, with its powerful coverage (based on history) of political events that took place under McCarthyism. Many novels have captured the social and political sentiments of this time, but Farewell My Country offers a twist with a focus on the author’s brother, Dr. Jack S. Harris, who fought in World War II only to be one of McCarthy’s targets. 

While the chronicle might best be described as a biography, added embellishments (recreating events that couldn’t be documented) turn its format into a novel. Either way, it’s a recommended pick for readers who enjoy political history cradled in dramatic reading.

Jack’s actual words, drawn from his journal entries, are in italics throughout with insights from family members and journalists providing a factual foundation.

The ideal reader of Farewell My Country will have some prior knowledge of the era’s events and processes. Such an audience will more readily appreciate Jack’s unique story as he evolves from being a super patriot to one who is bedeviled by a committee that operates outside legal safeguards.

From the start, Jack is critical of the McCarthy approach; never mind that he’s become a target: “Those creatures aren’t looking for the truth. They’re not protecting any freedoms. They’re trying to condemn people—as many as they can. They want the world to think they’re some kind of saviors. I’ll tell you what they really are: they’re grandstanding sonsofbitches without a conscience—totally amoral and arrogant. Do you think they care that two people have committed suicide because their lives were ruined by these jackals?”

His carefully-honed academic career is under fire, his own wife even checks with him to be sure he never ascribed to Communist memberships or ideals, and Jack worries about the impact of the investigation on his family as well.

In the process of considering how he came to this point, Jack’s life is reviewed and readers are treated to an in-depth series of vignettes on his childhood, his growth, and his achievements.

During the course of this review readers receive insights on wartime actions and interactions on a personal as well as military and political levels, and come to understand Jack’s options and decisions against the backdrop of his times.

There’s some back-and-forth to the timeline which may seem abrupt or confusing to some; but one needs only to step back and look at the bigger picture to find that each seemingly-puzzling movement of time and space contributes its part to a larger portrait of Jack. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle that, in the end, comes together with a satisfying click of interlocked pieces.

Another unusual note feature of Farewell My Country is a centerfold of vintage black and white photos of Jack and his family: these contribute to the feel that this is a biography, not just a fictional piece; and they personalize the story with real people and images that readers can carry forward as they continue to learn about Jack and his life.

From military protocol to how ‘communist traitors’ were pinpointed and prosecuted to popular sentiments of the era, Farewell My Country personalizes events through the interactions of Jack, his attorney, and notorious Senator McCarran, who fosters such an atmosphere of terror that his bullying word alone can break an innocent suspect.

The storm that evolves eventually drives Jack to desperate measures, especially for a military man who fought for his country and returned home filled with new ideals for building a better world.

Without giving away the conclusion, suffice it to say that Farewell My Country successfully documents how patriotism can be warped by social and political influences – and how even the most acclaimed hero can become a refugee from everything he once believed to be true.

Especially recommended for any who want a novel bringing to life McCarthyism’s tactics and impact.

D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review http://www.midwestbookreview.com

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