Gerry B's Book Reviews

The Fallen Snow, by John J. Kelley

A touching coming of age novel –



fallen snow - coverStory blurb: In the fall of 1918 infantry sniper Joshua Hunter saves an ambushed patrol in the Bois le Prêtre forest of Lorraine . . . and then vanishes. Pulled from the rubble of an enemy bunker days later, he receives an award for valor and passage home to Hadley, a remote hamlet in Virginia’s western highlands. Reeling from war and influenza, Hadley could surely use a hero. Family and friends embrace him; an engagement is announced; a job is offered.

Yet all is not what it seems. Joshua experiences panics and can’t recall the incident that crippled him. He guards a secret too, one that grips tight like the icy air above his father’s quarry. Over the course of a Virginia winter and an echoed season in war-torn France, The Fallen Snow reveals his wide-eyed journey to the front and his ragged path back. Along the way he finds companions – a youth mourning a lost brother, a widowed nurse seeking a new life and Aiden, a bold sergeant escaping a vengeful father. While all of them touch Joshua, it is the strong yet nurturing Aiden who will awaken his heart, leaving him forever changed.

Set within a besieged Appalachian forest during a time of tragedy, The Fallen Snow charts an extraordinary coming of age, exploring how damaged souls learn to heal, and dare to grow.

About the author: John J Kelley is a fiction writer crafting tales about healing, growth and community. Born and raised in the Florida panhandle, he graduated from Virginia Tech and served as a military officer. After pursuing traditional careers for two decades, he began writing.

John is a member of The Writer’s Center ( He lives in Washington, DC, with his partner of eighteen years and can often be found wandering Rock Creek Park or hovering over his laptop at a local coffee shop.

John recently completed his debut novel, a work of historical fiction set at the close of the First World War. The Fallen Snow explores the emotional journey of a young infantry sniper returning to a remote mountain community reeling from war, influenza and economic collapse.


Review by Gerry Burnie
fallen snow - wwi collageI have done a fair amount of research into WWI (1914 – 1918), and because of it I have developed a real admiration for the young men who fought and died in unfamiliar places like Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele. It was hell on earth with the “mustard” gas, the relentless mud, the rotting trench feet, and the barbarity in general, and their sacrifices should never ever be forgotten. Because of this, Fallen Snow, by John J Kelley [Stone Cabin Press, December 19, 2012] appealed to me as an appropriate memorial.

The story follows the experience of one young man from the rural uplands of Virginia to the battlefields of Alsace Lorraine, France, and back again. However, the man who left Virginia is not the man who returned; not emotionally, anyhow. For want of a better name hey called it “shell sock” back then, but we now know it as PTSD (“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”)

Complicating this even further is the fact that Joshua Hunter is also gay, which in the context of the time and rural setting was yet another source of emotional distress.

Along the way he meets a variety of characters, each with their own story, but only Aiden has the strength to help Joshua come to grips with himself.

I thought the author did quite a good job of depicting the battlefield scenes, although I would have liked to see them a bit more stark to reflect the reality of it, and even though I am unfamiliar with Virginia, I was able to visualize the Appalachian setting quite well. I could also identify with the insular society of his village, and with his ultra-conservative family.

I understand this is John Kelley’s debut novel, and so I look forward to reading more. Four and one-half bees.


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March 11, 2013 - Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, Historical Fiction, Historical period

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