Fifteen-year-old Adam Cooper comes of age on the grueling first day of war when he is shot at and sees friends die as he marches with minutemen at Lexington, at Concord, and in the deadly British retreat back to Boston.
The courage of these citizen soldiers stiffened spines from the icy forests of Maine to the misty swamps of Georgia. Their deeds could inspire noble thoughts in the 1770s and, with slight adjustments of focus, they can do the same today. Read this book and you’ll be a better person for it.
April Morning unrolls over 36 hours of brow-furrowing action but, regrettably, begins with a lengthy family debate that really could have been left out. Fortunately it is interrupted by the sound of galloping horses and ringing church bells leads to an “extraordinary town meeting” where Adam’s wise old father persuades the militia to put aside thoughts of trigger-pulling in favor of a parade ground protest. And he accomplishes this with a speech that Abraham Lincoln would have been proud to deliver.
“What certainty?” [he asks the committeemen,] “Our duty! Our oath in the holy name of freedom! ...Is our principle flexible? Have we nurtured the Committee only to abandon it at the moment it faces the test? Have we drilled a militia only to sweep it into hiding at the first glimpse of a thieving redcoat?... I say, no! I say that right and justice on our side! Who are these red-coated bandits that we should fear them? Are we strangers to the military curse that strangles England-the monster of conquest and bloodlust that beckons us to equate the fat George to the antichrist? We know where they find their so-called soldiers, the sweepings of the filthy alleys of London, the population of their jails, the men condemned to the gallows and reprieved to teach us legality! We know them, and we fear them not! Our duty remains our duty! Our course remains the just cause!”
We can ignore the fact that in this era only a Quaker fanatic would have spoken of a “military curse” or of “the monster of conquest.” We can also assume that Patriot enthusiasts really believed that all redcoats were vagrants and criminals (they weren’t.) We can do this because April Morning is not just a history lesson. It is a post-nuclear, post-holocaust, pacifist parable, and a darned good one.
On page 1, after a stern lecture from his father regarding undone chores, Adam thinks:
“If just once in all my born days you’d say a good thing to me, then maybe I’d show good to you...and maybe read your mind, or your soul.”
Like most young adult novels that find favor with schoolteachers, April Morning is an old adult novel with a young protagonist. Following the traditions of coming-of-age stories, Adam starts out with at least some of the characteristics of a teenager and rapidly develops the values of a middle-aged, 20th century, liberal-minded scholar. If only Howard Fast had put humanistic wisdom and adolescent foolishness on alternating pages, then this might have been a book an ordinary teenager would read for more than a book report. Alas, he did not, but that shouldn’t stop us older and wiser folks from thoroughly enjoying it.
Not part of a series.
Moderate violence. No disturbing content. P.C.
Available in audiobook format.
Adapted as a 100 minute movie.
Howard Fast on Wikipedia (click here)