The Chicken Thief Soldier:
A Death at Valley Forge
by Michael Fields Xlibris

"I believe he loved this land. I believe he would fight and die for this land. Professor JJ looked at the stone and then fixed his gaze on Bruce. I think he was a lot like you."

The past and present eerily parallel as Fields juxtaposes the stories of Bruce Jenkins, a Revolutionary War soldier killed at Valley Forge in 1778 while stealing a chicken, and Bruce Benson, who nearly 200 years later lives near what is now Valley Forge National Park. Fields does an admirable job of circumstantially connecting the two men's lives. Benson also sees combat, in Vietnam. Both are caught stealing a chicken when they are hungry, and both have a best friend who shares their combat experience. Both love a beautiful girl and witness a hanging.

Fields is an accomplished wordsmith, and the novel is quick-paced and thoroughly enjoyable, with a strong cast of primary and supporting characters. Perhaps a more purposeful tie between the two men might have been employed. Fields flirts with the mystical, employing fleeting references about Benson sensing a connection to the soldier who is buried in the national park. This connection might have been more evident if Fields had alternated the two men's stories chapter-by-chapter. As written, the book is divided into two distinct sections, first Jenkins, then Benson, and therefore it's difficult to pick up on what binds them when the clues are not in close proximity. A good read that promises to be great.

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