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The Warrior by Frances Richey

Pub Date:

 

The Warrior
A Mother's Story of a Son at War
Frances Richey

Viking
4/15/08
Hardcover/96 pages
ISBN: 0670019615
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". . . lays bare the tender beating heart of a mother torn between pride and fear . . ."

I’m not a poet and I read very little poetry, but Frances Richey’s book of poetry, The Warrior, has changed my mind. It is a mother's thought provoking and moving search for understanding.

While The Warrior is not epic poetry in the truest sense, the emotions and story are epic. Richey uses poetry in a way that Virginia Woolf said could not be done, by creating a narrative in much the same way a novel delineates life. As Woolf wrote in her essay, “Impassioned Prose”: “Prose…is a medium primarily addressed to the intelligence, poetry to feeling and imagination.” While The Warrior is indeed full of feeling and imagination, it is also “addressed to the intelligence.”

Richey sketches her struggle to understand why her young son decided to become a warrior and what that means. In a series of quick poems connected to One Week Before Deployment she inventories her son’s equipment as well as her own feelings about the protection, or lack thereof, each will supply. She tells how hard it is to watch her son leave, knowing he might not come back, with heartbreaking detail and a raw honesty that put a lump in my throat. In Thetis, Richey compares herself with the goddess mother of Achilles who protected her son as best she could, leaving the one small flaw in his Stygian armor that led to his death. Likewise, Richey wonders what she has left undone.

The Warrior searches through the past while coming to terms with the present to answer the mother’s eternal questions. Why does my son willingly face danger? What does that say about how I raised him? Richey lays bare the tender beating heart of a mother torn between pride and fear with the clear, ringing voice of strength and sincerity.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell