Jeff Green | Jun 23, 2005
Feature article, June 23, 2005
Feature article June 23, 2005LAND O' LAKES NewsWeb Home
Contact UsIn this Sign by Lyman Coleman Novel takes reader from Plevna to Ortona, during World War 2reviewed by Jeff Green
Lyman Coleman brings his personal history with him when he sits down to write. Before serving as a Military Chaplain for 28 years, Lyman Coleman served as an Anglican minister in the Plevna-Ardoch region in the late 40s. In his newly published novel, In this Sign, the hero, Ralph Russell, is posted to that same location by the Anglican Church in the late 30s.
Ralph Russell quickly falls in love with the terrain and lifestyle of the region: The lakes teemed with fish. Large, migrant flocks of geese and ducks blanketed the waterways in the fall. The streams supported beaver, mink, otter, and other fur bearing animals. It follows then, that the pioneers of this country became ardent hunters, fishermen and trappers.
Lyman Coleman himself enjoyed the area so much, that when he moved on in his career, he maintained a connection by purchasing a property, and to this day he spends time in the Plevna area.
In the novel, In This Sign, Ralph Russell joins the military and goes off to England to minister to a company from the Ottawa Valley, including many soldiers from his former parish. Lyman Colemans own knowledge of the military, along with research into the second World War, allow him to create a convincing picture of life among the troops as they arrive in England and begin the long three-year wait in the English countryside before finally entering the fray by landing in Sicily in 1943.
The novel maintains its momentum through this long wait by introducing a love story between Ralph and Erin, a young widowed mother and, coincidentally, the daughter of the local vicar who befriends Ralph. Throughout this section of the novel, it is Ralph Russells job to maintain the morale of the soldiers, and he is given the opportunity to grow as a character.
Finally, the company is off to Sicily, but by this time Ralph and Erin are married, Erin is pregnant with his child, and her father is in decline, so there is an extra element of fear and regret for Padre Russell even as he finally gets to see the kind of action he had been waiting for all those years to experience.
The war scenes in Sicily and across Italy are the most compelling section of the book, and Padre Russell gets ample opportunity to show his mettle as a battlefield minister.
Among the most difficult duties Ralph Russell is called upon to perform are the composition of letters to his old parishioners back in Clarendon and Miller, informing them of the demise of their sons. The fact that many of these characters were based on people that Lyman Coleman knew when he lived in the area makes the characters all the more real and their plight even more heartbreaking.
In This Sign is a compelling look at the life of a military clergyman and the Canadian soldiers experience of the Second World War, with the backdrop of the landscape and day-to-day reality of the Ardoch-Plevna region punctuating the story through memories and letters from the home front.
It is great accomplishment for Lyman Coleman, who has found a new career after retiring from his life as a military man and a man of the cloth.
(Lyman Coleman will be having a book signing of In This Sign at North of 7 Restaurant in on July 2. Details will be announced soon)