Virgil's Story

Non-Fiction - Autobiography
628 Pages
Reviewed on 11/04/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite

Virgil's Story is an autobiographical memoir in which Virgil D. Mochel recounts his entire life and the story of how the Mochel family found its footing in America. The book opens with Virgil narrating how his ancestors from both sides of his parents' family arrived in America following the religious persecution of Protestants in different parts of Europe. After his father's family settled in Woodland, Indiana, he married Virgil's mother after a ten-year-long period of courtship. Virgil describes his childhood with his siblings on their small family farm, surviving the Great Depression, and the tragic loss of his two brothers in World War II. In part two, he delves into his life as an adult, leaving Woodland, marrying Marian, his time at Purdue University, working at Firestone, and in the end, the lives of his children and grandchildren in the 21st century.

Virgil's Story is not only Virgil D. Mochel's account of his life but the history of multiple generations of a family, from their arrival in America to chasing the American dream in its entirety. This is an all-American success story. Mochel leaves nothing out in providing a faithful reiteration of real-life events that shaped the course of his and his family's present and future. With scrumptious prose and an easy-going narrative style, Mochel's tale feels relatable and engaging in a way only top-tier autobiographies are. The complementary pictures throughout the pages bring a sense of nostalgia to the narrative that feels almost infectious. Emotionally relevant and captivating to read, I highly recommend this autobiography.

Asher Syed

Virgil's Story by Virgil D Mochel is a sweeping autobiography of the author's family history and his own life. This is a weighty tome and as such covers pretty much everything Virgil has a record of, knows, has been told or experienced himself. The details are so in-depth that Virgil does not even make a formal appearance in the book until seventy-odd pages in. Born in 1930s Indiana as one of a robust pack of six children, Virgil's stories are a combination of anecdotes and memories, such as growing up in depression-era America and losing peppermint crops to Japanese beetles. It is written in a conversational style and includes passages that are intended to educate, such as the intricacies of cattle sex for 'city dwellers' such as myself. Virgil experienced loss several times over love, growth, war, careers, education, marriage, children, grandchildren, and everything after and in between.

Virgil's Story is an ambitious undertaking and the amount of information that Virgil D Mochel has pulled together is among the most comprehensive I've come across. This is a mixed blessing as by withholding nothing at all from the narrative it becomes a little confusing to know who this book has been written for. It reads like a legacy autobiography that is intended for future generations of Virgil's family, and this is how I ultimately approached it. I enjoyed the way Virgil writes as a friend who is sitting and chatting with you, one who then can pull out a whole box of photographs that start as tintypes and evolve into full color. It's incredible that so much has been preserved and is a testament to how deeply Virgil connects to his role as the current caretaker of his family history. If only more individuals were this diligent there would be such a richer, heartier flow of collective histories to share, and Virgil's family is fortunate to have this account.

Jamie Michele

Virgil D Mochel pens his own life story in the non-fiction autobiography called Virgil's Story. Virgil is from a family of pioneers who settled in the United States for a variety of reasons, making their way, some with their possessions intact, through generations. The Mochel mixed pot had its roots in multiple entrepreneurial and agricultural directions in the lead-up to Virgil's birth in Indiana, in 1930. His childhood is one of love and hard farming work, surrounded by his surviving siblings and an abundance of stories. There was parity between Virgil's home life and work, faith and education, and eventually his marriage to Marian. Periods of extreme sadness are described, one being the death of Virgil's brothers Evans and Robert during WWII. These periods are peppered with others of extreme happiness, the most natural being the birth of his children.

It's hard not to skip ahead to look at all of the pictures that Virgil D Mochel includes in Virgil's Story. The book can probably be best described as a time machine where we see a family evolve over multiple generations, starting with a horse and buggy and pushing through to a man walking on the moon, and so on. The love shared by Virgil and Marian transcends the page and, as with the stories of his childhood, it is when Virgil lets us glimpse into a scene of everyday family life that the storytelling is most organic. From a literary standpoint, the narrative does get overly loquacious and frequently wanders off into the weeds, but Virgil soon finds his way back to the audience, sets down a photo of Steve and Jane on a playground or Carol riding her horse Napoleon, and we are once more in rhythm with the author. I see this book being required reading in American History 101 for the class of 2095. Recommended.

K.C. Finn

Virgil’s Story is a work of non-fiction in the autobiography subgenre. It is suitable for the general reading audience and was penned by author Virgil D Mochel. The book first tells the tale of how the author’s ancestors arrived in America from Europe, from the various events that prompted them to seek out a new life to the trials and hardships that come from being a pioneer. Through the ages, the author shares the story of their family as they survived the Great Depression, lost members to the Second World War, and banded together in the darkest of times. The second phase discusses the journeys of the author with their wife leading up to the present day.

This book fascinated me from the outset with its laser-like focus on a single family tree and the events that led them to America following religious persecution and other hardships in their native Europe. Author Virgil D Mochel’s prose is gorgeous as he brings to life each and every member of his family, exploring them and their lives with an excellent level of detail that brings them to life on the page. I also enjoyed the later chapters in which the author discusses his own personal journey with his wife and family as the adventure of the Mochel family continues. Overall, Virgil’s Story is an engaging and entertaining reflection on a seemingly ordinary American family and the journey they took to make a better life for themselves and their descendants. I'd highly recommend this book to all readers as a heartwarming and insightful read in equal measure.

Philip Van Heusen

As I was, you might be tempted to ask, “Who is Virgil, and why would I want to read about him?” It turns out that Virgil is quite an intriguing man. He has a great memory allowing him to tell so many exciting stories of his life. Virgil’s Story by Virgil D. Mochel is a memoir and a history lesson. Virgil is a masterful storyteller and what he shares about growing up in the 30s and 40s is fascinating. If you have any love for history, this book will give you a great understanding of what rural life in America was like. Virgil not only gives his past but also shares the stories of his ancestors going back some five hundred years. Two of Virgil’s brothers were killed during World War II. Their letters home are included and priceless.

Virgil D. Mochel has lived a fascinating life and he shares his journey in Virgil’s Story. Growing up in the Depression taught Virgil lessons that would guide him throughout his life. Reading this book allows a look at the history that shaped him. Knowing our heritage helps us understand where we are headed. After a review of family events, Virgil shares experiences from his adult life. He includes his academic history from early childhood to earning his Ph.D. His employment history covers some exciting and valuable inventions (like the project that eventually became the bases for MRIs) that affect our daily lives. He worked for Corning, Firestone, and other companies. He lived life at the forefront of life-changing discoveries. Virgil is a man of faith and serves God in many ways. He worked hard, played hard, and shared many stories about vacations. His writing reflects his consummate ability to entertain.