I recently finished a book I just can’t quit thinking about. The writing was beautiful – compact and succinct, without a wasted word. In this novel, “Articles of War”, Nick Arvin tells the story of an eighteen-year-old Iowa farm boy, George Tilson, known as ‘Heck’ because of his refusal to swear.
“Articles of War” puts the reader inside Heck’s head as he lands on Omaha beach shortly after D-Day, meets Claire, a French refugee girl, and is sent to the hellish conditions of a forward unit. Men die all around him, but when Heck faces danger he is incapacitated by fear and cannot fire his M-1. In the grip of his cowardice, he ponders desertion but knows in his heart he will not be able to face his father if he does.
As he wrestles with his inner terrors, Heck is reassigned. He is sent as part of the firing squad tasked with executing a deserter – a deserter who once shared a foxhole with him. Knowing that only his fear and doubt stands between him and a similar fate, Heck is forced by orders to fire upon command. The war ends and Heck reenlisted to stay in France, his emotions still wooden. He eventually sees Claire and her infant daughter begging in the streets. Will Heck have a chance at redemption?