Review of "Coming Home Alone"

Dan DeMatteis wrote a delightful review of Coming Home Alone:

Set mainly in St. Thomas and Toronto, Ontario at the end of WWII, Coming Home Alone tells the moving story of a 'golden boy' from the farm country of Southwest Ontario and his struggles to find himself after his return from the front.

Captain Bobby Russell was medically discharged from his St. Thomas and Elgin Highlanders regiment at the beginning of 1945 with what we would now call PTSD, shell-shock back then. He makes his way back to his hometown, St. Thomas, in a daze and back to his mother, former girlfriend, farm and dairy business. There he is met with well-meaning but misplaced expectations from both the townspeople and from the wealthy, well-connected set he stumbles into on a stopover on his journey home in Toronto. Most affecting of all is the chilling reception he receives from his former girlfriend, personally offended by his hasty enlistment in the army and what she sees as his thoughtless abandonment of her love and affection.

This story of healing and reintegration into society is told against the background of Ontario politics, a shady business development scheme, a murder investigation and his mother's romance. I particularly liked some of the set pieces in the novel - the scenes in the local barbershop, the expropriation hearing, the account of the 1945 Provincial election and especially the luminous last section from Bobby and Susan's engagement through to the night of their wedding.

Metcalfe has a way with words. The dialogue seemed 1940s, south-western Ontario realistic to me. And a dry wit comes through the characters' speech and particularly from the narrator's comments.

If you like WWII novels, have a connection with Toronto and/or south-western Ontario or just like good well-told stories and complex intriguing characters, this is a good book for you.

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