A Modern Day Red Badge of Courage

By Eleanor Sevigny

Published November 18, 2021 in The Burg


Still Points is a novel by Barry Swanson about a World War II soldier, Philip Zumwalt, in the Pacific Theater. The story starts in Illinois where Zumwalt falls in love with Elinor Robinson. The reader follows Zumwalt as he struggles to maintain a relationship with Robinson and answer the call to serve his country.

Swanson wrote Still Points by using Zumwalt’s diaries and letters in addition to copious amounts of research.

Still Points touched my heart. Ever since I was a little girl and found out my poppa, Harry Chatelain, was a World War II veteran I have been intrigued about World War II. This led to me pouring over many books about World War II and minoring in history at Knox College. Something I discovered during my search to understand Poppa’s experience was that a lot of the books and classes I encountered focused on the war in Europe. Poppa was in the Pacific Theater, so I was left with more questions than answers.

When I received an advanced reader copy of Still Points I was ecstatic. I devoured all 384 pages of the novel. As I read Still Points I laughed, cried, and fell in love with the well written characters.

The best way for me to summarize Still Points is that it is a modern version of the Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. Swanson does not shy away from depicting the horrors of war. With each depiction Swanson crafts a story that emphasizes a theme that is carried throughout the novel: war should not be glorified.

In Still Points the reason war should not be gloried is clear. It strips away our humanity. War wounds our soldiers in more ways than one. The soldiers who return from war will never be the same again. They’ve experienced things we can never begin to imagine. That is the cost of war.

At the same time Swanson and Zumwalt make a clear statement that sometimes war is necessary. War should never be made or taken lightly. For a good cause like the case of World War II, war becomes necessary.

While Zumwalt and my Poppa did not have the same experience I found more answers in Still Points than I ever had before about what my Poppa could have experienced.

Thank you Swanson for taking the time to share Zumwalts story with the world. I look forward to reading your next novel.

If you are interested in reading Still Points, you can pick up your copy today at Wordsmith Bookshoppe. Currently Wordsmith Bookshoppe is anticipating a book signing with Swanson in late April of 2022. Follow Wordsmith Bookshoppe’s Facebook page for more details.


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