Shrapnel explores the legacy of war in three generations of men from the Butler family. Bing Butler, a seventy-seven-year-old, right-wing widower and World War II veteran from Texas, reluctantly moves in with his feminist, antiwar daughter in West Virginia. Here he is forced to bury painful family secrets and stifle his tendencies toward racism, sexism, and homophobia. His post-9/11 anxieties equally force him to grapple with these psychological foibles, as his daughter's only son rallies to enlist to serve overseas. Bing had once embraced such patriotic fervor, but after bullying his own son into going to Vietnam, he finds he must now muster a kind of emotional bravery he never knew he was capable of in order to keep the family together. At turns funny and at other turns frightening (and frighteningly honest), Shrapnel is always surprising and ultimately greatly rewarding.
"Marie Manilla’s Shrapnel is a Fathers and Sons for our time. It’s a novel about generational, political, and geographical differences and what it takes to bridge them. It’s a novel about the past and the past’s refusal to remain safely buried. And it’s a novel about journeys—its protagonist’s, certainly, but all of ours—toward discovery, humility, and wonder. Perhaps Shrapnel’s greatest pleasure is the way it’s told—vividly and with evocative portraits of people and places—and with wisdom—and with gentle and welcome humor."
—Mark Brazaitis, author of The Incurables and The River of Lost Voices
"From the opening pages, where we find Bing Butler selling off the remnants of his life at a yard sale, Shrapnel takes us on a journey through the reshaping of the American family and American community. Texan, veteran, working man, husband – the life that Bing Butler had imagined for himself has exploded, and he will have to assemble a new one from the shards, far across the country in West Virginia, a place known only through jokes and stereotypes. This crotchety Candide will be led astray and will experience terrible, ordinary betrayals on his way to a future he’d not imagined. This is a sensitively wrought first novel with characters you’ll long remember."
—Val Neiman, author of Blood Clay
"Bing Butler is a man attempting to reconcile living between two worlds, and his is a life that illustrates beautifully the contradictions of living. How do we understand the actions of our lives? How do we come to terms with the tragedies of our historical eras? What are the secrets, the unknowable things about even those we are closest to, love the most? All these questions are skillfully threaded into this novel about a man forced by age and circumstance to leave one life and his attempts to live in harmony in a new world. Manilla gives us rich characters who populate the physical landscapes of Bing Butler: Texas and West Virginia. His worlds, both past and present, are infused with memories, and the author is masterful in her exploration of his inner landscapes of grief, guilt, and love."
—Gail Galloway Adams, author of The Purchase of Order
"Bing’s attitude is one we initially want to scoff at in order to find a way to tolerate his ways—He's just an old racist war hero, poor thing—but life isn’t that simple, particularly for our war heroes who’ve seen and done things we citizens can’t imagine, all for our greater liberty. We must slow down, listen to each other, particularly when someone’s viewpoint differs from our own—that’s the only time we can truly learn from each other. Marie Manilla does a fantastic job in Shrapnel of reminding us of exactly that incredibly human activity."
—Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish
"Shrapnel will hit you in surprising places. It is the story of an unforgettable character's warfare and the hot, wounding fragments of his fantasies, reveries, and regrets. Marie Manilla lays down every sentence thoroughly and lovingly. This is an author you can trust. She's got your back."
—Jacqueline St. Joan, author of My Sisters Made of Light
Shrapnel is available at Amazon.
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