A memoir in which a son imagines and resurrects the life of his deceased soldier father
In December 1944 First Lieutenant Ewing R. "Pete" McClelland was captured in the
Battle of the Bulge. Soon afterwards in an Allied air attack on the German POW
camp where he was held, he was killed.
Back home in Pennsylvania, his young
widow and three small children survived him. Too young to have lasting
recollections, Ben McClelland, the soldier's son who was just beyond infancy,
became one of the war's fatherless innocents for whom the memories of others
would form the paternal image. As the boy evolved into manhood, he reflected on
how strange it was to grow up without this parent. In this narrative, a work of
analysis as well as an odyssey into family heritage, the son undertakes a
compelling search to find this man he could not remember. Through sentiment and
nostalgia he depicts the innocence of childhood and recalls the many people who
furnished impressions of his father. Old photographs, intimate letters, and
interviews with the memory keepers and the storytellers in his extended family
were resources from which the author recreated a time and a place and a person.
This reconstruction resurrects a father vital in life and passion, a man
chronicled in humorous family tales, realized among vivid small-town characters,
and seen against the contrast of social changes of the l960s. The search for his
father consumed most of a lifetime. As Ben McClelland was approaching the age of
sixty, he had recovered this lost, never-before-realized identity. But to
complete the circle of his quest, he undertook one thing more, the emotional
pilgrimage to his father's grave in Europe. Although many other memoirs detail
the experience of the soldier on the fronts of battle, this one brings an
understanding of his sacrifice in wartime, of the resounding meaning of his
death for his country and for his family, and of a son's profound yearning for
answers that fulfill.
Ben W. McClelland is a professor of English and holder of the Schillig Chair of
English Composition at the University of Mississippi.
ISBN 1-57806-625-5, cloth, $28.00
A Willie Morris Book in Memoir and Biography