A Man Called Smith


Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
316 Pages
Reviewed on 08/12/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Mamta Madhavan for Readers' Favorite

A Man Called Smith by Tanya E. Williams is the story of John Smith, a WWII veteran who leads a lonely life after the death of his wife. He and Violet were married for just three years and he felt he never had enough time with her. Their two kids, Calla and Jared, deserved a mother and two years later he decided to get married to Bernice, the woman he was seeing. Three months later John found it difficult to adjust to the new life and he kept comparing Violet and Bernice in his head. Caught up between the memories of war and his grief, John Smith was ignorant of the angst and pain his children were going through as he quashed his grief along with theirs to make Bernice happy. When Calla grew up, her dreams of going to university were shattered when Bernice used her college funds for her selfish purposes.

A Man Called Smith by Tanya E. Williams is a story of turmoil, pain, deception, and unhappiness. The author masterfully knits in the angst and pain of John and his daughter along with the insecurities of his second wife, Bernice, making the emotions palpable to readers. Violet's character has been portrayed so well that her presence lingers throughout the story. The story is engaging and will keep readers glued to it to learn how Calla will survive her step-mother's toxic behavior and what John will do to keep his family happy. It is heartwarming and heartrending at the same time to see John Smith, Jared, and Calla grieving together over all they have lost and all that will never come to be, trying to move ahead in their respective lives and achieve peace despite the negatively fabricated world around them.

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

Tanya E. Williams pens a heartrending story in A Man Called Smith. In April of 1949, John Smith lives in the aftermath of WWII. While trying to cope with the haunting memories of war, John buries his young and beautiful wife, Violet. Violet is everything good, John’s wellspring of hope. Without warning, John finds himself alone, trying to raise his young children, Calla and Jarred. John now must endure another endless battle, a life without his beloved, Vi. Affected by these traumatic events, John is overwhelmed, unable to separate himself from the two tragedies. Family comes to his aid, yet emptiness persists. John finds himself involved with Bernice. Bernice is nothing like Violet, yet she is a break from his reality. John Smith has no idea what he is getting himself into when he marries Bernice. Year after year, it becomes all too clear; life with Bernice was a different kind of war.

A Man Called Smith by Tanya E. Williams reveals the cause and effect of life within a dysfunctional family. A pendulum of time swings from past to present as father and daughter share their personal perspectives of their home, family, and life. Each character’s trauma is personalized; each one suffers the daily chaos, some fight, some escape, and others do not. Even though I am fully aware of the lifelong battle of PTSD victims, John’s character often frustrated me. A dreadful marriage and the lingering effects of war shape and mold his character; his struggles are all too real. Bernice’s condemnation and dysfunction take antagonism to a whole new level. However, it was Calla’s character growth that drew me into the story. Although she and her siblings were casualties of their father’s personal war, she fought to overcome. “Sometimes life is more about coping than living.” Regardless of how awful life was, Calla never gives up hope. Tanya E. Williams pulls at the reader’s heartstrings as she portrays the pain, sorrow, and emptiness of living a life at war. A Man Called Smith reminds us there is power in our choices. Choose wisely.

Grant Leishman

A Man Called Smith by Tanya E Williams takes us inside a dysfunctional, blended family in the 1950s and 60s. John Smith was just a newlywed when he volunteered for service during the Second World War. Seeing action on the beaches on Normandy and beyond, John survives but is plagued with nightmares and survivor guilt when he returns home to his bride and daughter in Cedar Springs, South Dakota. Despite John’s trauma, the future looks bright for these childhood sweethearts as they await the birth of their second child. When John’s wife, Violet, dies in childbirth his whole world crumbles around him. Alone and bereft of the love of his life, John sends the children to live on the farm with his parents while he tries to drag himself through his insufferable grief. When John meets Bernice, it seems like all his problems can be solved. She’s not Violet (but then nobody ever could be!) but she could be the wife and mother he and his children desperately need. What neither he nor his children realize is that Bernice’s first, second, and third priority will always be Bernice. So begins a downward spiral that will see all the participants sucked into this dysfunctional family and trying desperately to survive the angst and abuse that come their way.

Author Tanya E Williams tells the story of A Man Called Smith through the eyes of two protagonists and through two time periods. John and his daughter Calla recount what it was like to first lose their wife and mother and then how John’s marriage to Bernice drove a wedge between Calla, her brother Jarred and their father. The three boys born to the second union would fare marginally better at Bernice’s wicked tongue and hands than would Calla and Jarred but, nonetheless, they would also struggle with their mother’s vicious temper, belittling, and sarcasm. The character of John was an enigma in many ways. He was a strong, resolute and proud man but the war had instilled in him a belief that fighting achieved nothing, so he was always slow to rock the boat, to stand up for his children against “mother”. As a reader one wanted to seriously kick the man’s butt and tell him to stand up to the vicious, old slag. I’m sure that’s the reaction the author was looking for, so kudos to her for that.

The style is simple, readable and somewhat relatable, although John's antipathy to arguing seemed to stretch the bounds of probability at times. There is much to be had from the messages imparted by the characters, especially about the nature of war, the complicity of silence and the sheer lengths to which people will sometimes go to achieve peace – whatever the unseen costs of those accommodations might be. I understand this is the third in a series of stories around these characters so it may be that a reading of all three stories would open up the characters more and allow the reader to fully grasp the dynamics of this strained family relationship.