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Meet John Trow


Meet John Trow

It's amazing, all the busy-ness around us all the time. The
television blaring, the radio crackling, the stock reports and
weather reports and rap videos and reality-based game shows and
traffic and 47 different kinds of coffee flavors at the local
espresso stand, and blockbuster movies and the express check-out at
the grocery store, and all of it. Sometimes we wish we could just
leave it all and find something else. That's how Steven Armour
feels in Thomas Dyja's new novel MEET JOHN TROW. His story is
revealed as his life slowly unravels away from his unsatisfying job
and marriage to an unusual and somewhat effective postmodern ghost

Dyja returns to the subject of the Civil War that he used in his
first novel PLAY FOR A KINGDOM --- the story of a group of
Confederate and Union soldiers who meet to play baseball as the war
rages all around them. This time, however, the story is not of the
Civil War itself, but of Civil War reenactments. An unusual
subculture exists among reenactors, groups of middle-aged men
dressed in Union or Confederate uniforms, who stage encores of
Civil War battles and blood baths. Steven Armour finds himself in
the company of these men with unexpected results.

Armour is in the middle of a mid-life crisis when he decides to
join a local group of reenactors at nearby Mt. Riga, a local living
history village. He likes it, taking in the simple consolations of
19th century life, so he immerses himself in the life of long-dead
Private John Trow, a Civil War soldier he is assigned to portray.
Immerse himself, he does --- so much in fact that his life careens
sharply. He moves up the corporate ladder. He begins to reconnect
again with his family. But at what price? He's drawn towards the
wife of the regimental commander, and committing murder is on his
mind. His identity is slipping through his fingers. Who is he? What
did he want to become? Who does he want to be? The issue is settled
on the reenacted battlefield.

The novel is extremely slow and tedious in the beginning. I nearly
stopped reading altogether while learning about Armour's family
life. It's nothing more than a well-trodden domestic drama. The
characters, not fully drawn, just move through the plot Dyja has
devised for them, rather than coming to life themselves, taking the
story with them. They don't jump off the page as people you might
meet at the grocery store or in the car next you in the traffic
jam; they're just sketches and plot movers. But when Armour "meets
John Trow" the novel begins to take shape and move forward.
Momentum builds and the issues of identity and sacrifice come
forward, leaving us fairly satisfied at its climax.

Reviewed by Jonathan Shipley on January 22, 2011

Meet John Trow
by Thomas Dyja

  • Publication Date: June 3, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 355 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0670030996
  • ISBN-13: 9780670030996