FINDING ST. LO: A MEMOIR OF WAR AND FAMILY
Gordon Edward Cross, Robert Lewis Fowler, and Ted Neill
Independently Published (2019)
Reviewed by Skyler Boudreau for Reader Views (02/20)
“Finding St. Lo: A Memoir of War and Family” is a story from World War II, told by Robert Lewis Fowler and Gordon Edward Cross. They are a soldier and a medic, respectively, who served alongside each other in the 134th US Army Regiment. In this book, Fowler’s grandson Ted Neill collects their journal entries together into one cohesive format, alongside essays of his own.
People are complex. This is the simple, yet important message Neill delivers in “Finding St. Lo.” He artfully details his own experiences with Fowler, as compared to the experiences of his mother and other relatives growing up with him. Their recollections of him are vastly different. While Neill knew his grandfather as an honorable and heroic former soldier, his mother, “once spoke of coming home from college to find the youngest children two children, Joe and Sally, playing with broken beer bottles in place of toys” (Neill 10). This is one instance among many similar ones.
He acknowledges that heroes are flawed. The person you might have grown up admiring could very well have a darker side, as Fowler did in his experiences with alcoholism and the treatment of his family. One person can wear many different faces throughout their life.
As Neill explores the history of Fowler and Cross, he learns about himself in the process. Chapters are separated by his own personal essays exploring his feelings on the subject matter. Near the end of “Finding St. Lo” he says, “What have I learned at the end of all this? That perfection is a standard too high to hold our heroes up to, for any generation, much less ourselves?” His casual, reflective tone makes the audience think alongside him. How do they portray their own heroes? Is it an accurate portrayal?
“Finding St. Lo” is a touching publication of voices from the past. With Neill’s help, they reach into the present day and provide brief portraits of their own lives. With this book, readers can dive into their memories, brought to life through personal journals and photographs, and explore an important piece of history.