Night Music is the sound that means everything is okay. It is when the world goes silent that danger is close. That is what Joseph Russo, a returned soldier from the Vietnam War, describes it at. After an injury to his leg that left him unable to serve anymore, Joe moves to the small town of Grand Falls to start fresh in a new, idealistic town a girl had so beautifully described to him in letters. Those letters had been sent by a specific member of a group of college students who wrote to soldiers. That girl was Charlotte Parsons, desperate to know more about the war that claimed the life of her brother. This novel is the story of what occurs after these short-term pen pals meet in person.
Joe is a kind-hearted and positive young man with both physical and mental scars. He stands out as a returned soldier by wearing his army fatigues and walking with a cane due to his injured leg. Because it is so obvious he has served, Joe has to deal with people who are against America fighting in Vietnam treating him poorly. Despite going through some traumatic experience and living with daily reminders of the war, Joe does a wonderful job of settling into school, working the local hardware store and creating a new life for himself.
Part of that new life is Charlotte, the author of the letters Joe received in Vietnam. Char is a sweet girl who has just started college with dreams of being a writer. The reason Char began writing letters to a random soldier was to find out more about the war her older brother, Jeremy, died fighting. Although Joe does not tell her much about the horrors he experienced in Vietnam via letter or in person, the two form a friendship that helps her see herself, others and the world around her in a different light.
The antagonist of the story is Deke - Char's boyfriend and Jeremy's best friend. He is one of those against American's fighting in Vietnam and taking their hatred of the war out on the returning soldiers, such as Joe. At the start of the book, we find out that Deke has been a part of peaceful protests against the war but, since they do not seem to make a difference, he is looking at doing something a little more radical. Thanks to this information, it was not surprising that approximately 60% of the problems that occur for our protagonists are caused either directly or indirectly by Deke.
Now for the story. I loved the story surrounding Joe - regardless of the war he fought in, he deserves respect for serving his country and the opportunity to live at least a semi-normal life. It was great that the story showed how different people deal with life after the war and it was great that Joe's was a positive story. I also liked that the story highlighted other outcomes of returned soldiers because people need to know that just because you cannot see a scar, does not mean there are no scars. Mental health is something many struggle with and it must be much harder when the mental scars are caused by what those poor souls must experience while at war.
I was not as keen on the other elements of the story, such as Deke and the protests, but I will admit it worked in the story rather well. Another element that bothered me is how the romance came to be. It is not about how it was written because I did like that is happened slow and naturally, but some of my moral boundaries were crossed in order for some of the pre-relationships key moments to occur.
While it was a great story in many ways and I liked reading it, I did not love it. It was a sweet, well-written story that flowed nicely for the most part, but I have never been a fan of stories that wrap up nicely regardless of how sweet it is or how deserving the characters seem. I will say that Night Music gave me a whole new appreciation for those at war, returned soldiers and the wonderful sound of night music, and for that I am thankful.
If you are looking for a lighter wartime romance that does not spend much time on battlefields, then I believe this is a good read.