Goin' Through the Motions, most of which is interior monologue, employs a stylized dialect best described as "Southern Mountain English." In 1984, terminally ill and confined to a VA hospital, John Henry Shields reviews his life. Prelude, a dialogue between John Henry's son Martin and his wife in 2012, opens the novel. Prologue to Part One presents John Henry on the day in 1932, when he undergoes an epiphany that sets him on his life's quest to live a "true life." In Part One, John Henry recollects various events in his life ans begins to question if his life has been worthwhile. Prologue to Part Two is set in the Airborne training school at fort Benning, GA., 1942, where on his first jump from a C-47, the awakening he experienced as a boy is ressurrected. In Part Two, John Henry continues to recall events as well as choices he has made, some of which please him, while others fill him with regret. After his death, his wife Myra closes the action from 1984. The Last section of the novel, Fortuitous Epilogue, recounts the dreams of John Martin Shields. In Prelude. Martin mentioned these to his wife Peggy as having occurred on six successive nights, before the Sunday marking the 28th anniversary of his father's death.
"Goin' Through the Motions: Last Renderin's from a Quester and Rounder is a captivating book to read. As a reader, you are taken through the lives of different people and get to view the world through different lenses. Moony McNelly's book makes readers reflect on the life that they are living. When you read this book, you realize the world is much bigger and has different elements that make us into the beings we are. I tried to put myself in the shoes of the narrator in order to fully understand and better imagine his life. Almost every part of of the book carries life lessons that readers will appreciate. Readers are taken through different years and can see how diverse these are.
Goin' Through the Motions tells the story of John Henry Shields and his family. Getting to learn about his kin, and his own ambitious, achievements, challenges, and above all, his personality is a great reading experience. John Henry's life story, which touches on every aspect of his life, is told mostly through interior monologue. We read about his family, working life, social life, and so on. I enjoyed reading the monologues. They were fun to read, intigriguing and enthralling. I enjoyed analyzing John Henry as much as I enjoyed reading his thoughts.
This book is also interesting to read because of how the author arranged it. The novel opens with Prelude, which is a dialogue between Martin and his wife in 2012. Martin is the son of John Henry. I loved the prelude and got to appreciate Martin who later would be an important character. As one gets deeper into the book, more characters are introduced. The style Moony McNelly uses in the narration, the vocabulary, historical references and comparisons are some of the best features of the book. I enjoyed the Foruitous Epilogue alot though it marked the ending of the novel. We read about the dreams of John Martin Shields, which were exciting and captivating. The two Epilogues to Part One and Part Two were also stirring.
Anyone that enjoys novels that read like memoirs and autobiographies will love Goin' Through the Motions: Last Renderin's from a Quester and Rounder. There are numerous lessons to be learned from John Henry, Martin, Peggy, Myra and other characters." - Literary Titan: AWARDED FOUR STARS
Oct. 8 2021 - "Joyful and Excruciating" Literary Titan Online Author Interview with Moony McNelly
Goin' Through the Motions' is an intriguing memoir of John Henry Shields. Why was this an important book for you to write?
"John Henry Shields is closely modeled on my own father. In fact many of the events chronicled in the novel were taken from conversations with him during the last years of his life. Many other episodes derive from my eyewitness accounts along with those of relatives and friends. He was a complex individual who at times could be charming, engaging and thoughtful, but at other times annoying, aloof and thoughtless. As was true of many southerners of his generation, his stubborn neck was weighed down with a number of albatrosses such as racial pedjudice and misogyny, although he began to gain the upperhand on some of his demons as he aged. His alcoholism and what is now termed PTSD from having served in the 82nd Airborne Division during WWII were his most formidable foes. Our relationship, which I will oversimplify as love-hate, has never been far from my mind, even more so as I aged and began to reflect. I realized that I too had the need to try to rid myself of the albatross hanging from my neck. Therefore, in an attempt to explain it to myself, I attempted to explain it to the world. I chose to mimic the duality of life, so I constructed it both from the factual and the fictional."
What surprised you the most about John Henry Shields' life?
"One of the most surprising aspects of developing the character was my willingness to continue an exercise that, frankly, was both joyous and excruciating. The novel has taken me some fiftenn years to complete because I left it and returned to it many times. In addition, at the risk of sounding cliche, the work acted as a catharsis for me, and I am now certain that was what I wanted and needed. I will remain thankful to Virtual Bookworm's accepting John Henry (the manuscript) and for helping me through the tedious process of self-publishing. That too was a surprise after more than a few 'dead ends' while tramping with John Henry down publishers' row."
What were some themes that were important to explore in this book?
"There are numerous themes and motifs in the novel, some major, others subordinate. They are life's old conflicts, none of which are new to art: father and son; humans and war; male and female; humans and nature; humans and their 'multiple selves'; and of course, the most prevalent -- humans and death."
What do you hope is one thing readers can take away from this book?
"I suppose every writer believes one minute and doubts the very next that readers will find something in his or her work with which they can connect. Artists who claim they are creating only for themselves best stay clear of lie detectors. If I must be specific, to me, the idea of searching for some truth is universal. Perhaps readers of Goin' Through the Motions: Last Renderin's from a Quester and Rounder will find in the efforts of John Henry Shields, whether they be judged a success, a failure, or somewhere in between, a universal call to live a 'real' life."