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Book Nook: Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, by Kathleen Rooney

Vick Mickunas' 2020 interview with Kathleen Rooney

Reading fiction provides me with an escape from my rather mundane existence. And sometimes fiction helps me feel more connected with my own history and experiences. "Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey," the new novel by Kathleen Rooney, offered me the best of both worlds. Her exquisite prose transported me to a WWI battlefield where I was able to witness a miraculous feat performed by a homing pigeon who was able to rescue a battalion of soldiers in great peril. This story also allowed me to feel more connected to my late grandfather who lived through that war in France a century ago.

"Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey" is told from two points of view. One viewpoint is that of Major Whittlesey, the officer who was in command of what became known as "The Lost Battalion." Our other viewpoint is that of Cher Ami, the homing pigeon who transported the crucial message that saved those soldiers from a gruesome end. This novel is based on a true story.

My grandfather didn't like to talk about the war. I had always wondered what he experienced. This book gave me some insights into his life as a doughboy serving in France during that final year of what they hoped would be the War to End All Wars. Alas, that was not to be.

I really liked the alternating entries by Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey. As I was reading the thoughts of Kathleen Rooney's precocious pigeon I was feeling another connection with a being from my past; the dove who once flew through the door of my record store and then went on to become a boon companion. I called him Mr. Bill. All these years later I am starting to think that Mr. Bill was not a mister at all! He was probably a she! We had one other animal companion in our apartment in those days, a wonderful cat named Greyboy. Cats are often maligned for the awful things they can do to birds. Greyboy was a special cat. He loved Mr. Bill. They both had free range inside the apartment. One time I came home and found Greyboy asleep on my bed. And there was Mr. Bill, perched upon Greyboy's back, with her head tucked under her wing. They were sleeping together!

Mr. Bill and Vick Mickunas once upon a time.
Vick Mickunas
Mr. Bill and Vick Mickunas once upon a time.

The Book Nook on WYSO is presented by the Greene County Public Library with additional support from Washington-Centerville Public Library, Clark County Public Library, Dayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.

Vick Mickunas introduced the Book Nook author interview program for WYSO in 1994. Over the years he has produced more than 1500 interviews with writers, musicians, poets, politicians, and celebrities. Listen to the Book Nook with Vick Mickunas for intimate conversations about books with the writers who create them. Vick Mickunas reviews books for the Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News Sun.