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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
To the constant refrain of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (with appropriate variations), Scott Shepard, a wounded Vietnam vet just back from the war, tells his own story of his adjustment to life back home. He’s in college now—Iowa State—and finds himself involved with a teen prodigy who is enrolled at the age of fifteen. The plot of Marching As To War by Scharlie Martin follows the stages of this topsy turvy love affair especially as it affects Shep’s ongoing responses to his service. Diane is as much a challenge, it seems, as his life and death actions overseas. Further crises, some quite comic, arise from members of Diane’s family. But the most pressing—and often moving—crises take place in Shep’s mind as he grapples with the vagaries of romance and especially of his combat experience, of which he has flashbacks that grow in intensity as his love affair develops. The ending is a blend of surprise and whimsy.
Shep is intelligent, perceptive caring, and funny. He has a cynical wit about life and shows a flair for spontaneous, self-cutting similes and metaphors—as though he doesn’t deserve to be happy or even to live at all. My concern and respect for him kept me turning the pages because I needed to find out if Shep resolves his difficulties in both spheres. Scharlie Martin’s characterization of this searching, brilliant, suffering and witty man made me care. Martin’s skill at keeping things moving made Marching As To War a breeze and the final conclusion was both disturbing and profound.