Carry Me Home
Set in small-town Wisconsin in the years prior to, during, and after World War II, Carry Me Home is seen through the eyes of Earl “Earwig” Gunderman. Teenage Earwig has been “simple” since a childhood bout of scarlet fever, and Kring handles his unique narrative with skill.
His older brother Jimmy and Jimmy’s friends, all of whom treat him with rough affection, go off to war, and Earwig goes through his own growth in their absence, leaving his job at his mother’s store to work at the bowling alley and befriending an abused young wife and her sister-in-law, the town slut. The war takes its toll on the home front when rationing on gas and tires forces Earwig’s father to leave his gas station and take a factory job out of town to earn more money. Jimmy and his friend Floyd finally come home, both beaten down in body and mind after serving as POWs in the Pacific, and in the hierarchy of war service, they are not accorded the same respect that those who fought the Germans are. Despite these hardships and the pain felt by Earwig that his beloved older brother is not the same, his story ultimately ends on a note of hope.
The author has lovingly recreated small town life with all its insularities and made it especially affecting with the price that the war has exacted upon it. At times Earwig’s narration is shrewder than seems possible with his deficiency, but in the end that pales beside the power of this heartfelt tale.