The Last Repatriate

Heartfelt congratulations to Matthew Salesses on his nouvella The Last Repatriate (Nouvella Press, 2011).

This beautifully written nouvella renders with fittingly brutal detail the horrors of war, torture and imprisonment. The gorgeous prose and gripping plot also testify to our strangeness, resilience, and capacity for love.

The depiction of man’s inhumanity to man here is so raw and visceral, I sometimes felt nauseated and almost despairing. I will never understand how one human being can torture, maim and kill another. The protagonist, Teddy’s, harrowing experiences both during and after the Korean War are heartbreaking and as I read I also sometimes felt anxious, angry and disturbed. That’s how all war stories should make us feel.

What I’ve most taken away from this nouvella, though, is Salesses’ skill and the beauty of his writing. I felt fully drawn into this fictional and powerful story, and felt especially invested in Teddy’s relationship with his parents and in the ‘love’ triangle of Teddy, Kate and Beth. It’s an interesting and ambitious “we” narratorial choice too that Salesses really pulls off. I highly recommend this excellent read.

In 1953, after the end of the Korean War, 23 POWs refused to repatriate to America. The Last Repatriate tells the story of Theodore Dickerson, a prisoner who eventually returns to his home in Virginia in the midst of the McCarthy Era. He is welcomed back as a hero, though he has not returned unscathed. The lasting effects of the POW camp and troubles with his ex-fiancée complicate his new marriage as he struggles to readjust to the Virginia he holds dear.

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