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April Morning

On April 19, 1775, Adam Cooper, aged 15, signed the muster roll of the Lexington militia. This book by Howard Fast is the story of the next twenty-four hours in his life – the story of the birth of a man and a nation and a way of life.
It is a story of almost unbearable tension, a deceptively quiet description of a single day in a boy's life, of his moment of coming of age, of the heroism of unheroic people, and the courage that builds upon fear and hesitancy.
This is the story of a battle, but we think it is unlike any battle story you have ever read. In all truth, it is the story of the beginnings and the specific memory of America; it is for anyone and everyone who is an American or who has ever loved or cherished any part of what we call the American dream.
But with that the portrait here of Adam Cooper's coming of age, of his first knowledge of love and death, and of his struggle to triumph over his own youth is the most fulfilled writing of Howard Fast, a stirring book of passion and hope, as true an account of resistance and resolution as anyone has ever written.

* * *

"The story is one we all knew in childhood, but as told here, shorn of the glamour of remembered verse, realistic, unlovely, a sudden awakening for men and boys of the horror and meaninglessness and confusion of war. And yet, working below the terror and panic, the resistance to thought of violent death, one senses a ferment, a slow awakening to an understanding as the men of Lexington, though they ran away at first onslaught, came back to the determination to hold fast what they had built and made their own. Superbly told, through the half-vision of a boy, this has a compassionate quality of stark simplicity that makes memorable reading."

--Virginia Kirkus

* * *

"What is so remarkable about APRIL MORNING is the absolute belief instilled in the reader that the battles of Lexington and Concord must have happened in just this way and that this is the way a youth of 15 must have seen them. The book is true, touching, and reads like a proverbial streak."

--Hollis Alpert

from the dust jacket of the 1961 Crown first edition
Jacket painting by William Plummer

Plot summary

from Andrew MacDonald's "Howard Fast: A Critical Companion"
(Greenwood Press, 1996)

April Morning's narrator, Adam Cooper is only fifteen years old...

The plot is carried along by Adam's voice, as he tells us of his life and surroundings. He is criticized by his father for laziness and disrespect, and then he argues with Levi, his eleven-year-old brother, about Adam's saying a spell to remove a curse from the well water. Adam goes into his house and talks to his mother and then his grandmother. The family sits around the dinner table, and Adam's father again dresses down his son; we begin to see him as a man of strong opinions, firmly expressed. Joseph Simmons, a relative, stops by. He has been chosen to write a statement on the rights of man by the committee, the men of the village acting to define their positions on their hopes for liberty from Britain. Adam at fifteen is a year too young to participate in the committee meeting that night – he has gone to visit his girlfriend Ruth Simmons – but he recounts his father's version of events. We find that his village, Lexington, is in emotional and intellectual turmoil about the exciting events of the incipient revolution.

Lexington is awakened in the middle of the night by a lone rider with the news that the British army has left Boston and is marching on the village. Adam slips out to join his father and the reverend, who are discussing with the committeemen what their response should be if a thousand or more British troops march in to be opposed by the seventy-nine-man local militia. Adam, carrying his weapon, a fowling piece, signs up with the militia and joins his father on the village common.

The British army marches in just before dawn. There is a brief standoff; a shot is fired, redcoat soldiers shoot dead Adam's father and several others, and there is chaos on the village green. Adam and the militia scramble to escape, and the youth hides out for the night in a smokehouse. Almost caught the next morning by a British patrol, he escapes into the countryside, where he meets an older man, Solomon Chandler. They walk together toward where the British army has disappeared, up the road to Concord. They meet Adam's cousin, who learns of Adam's father's death. As they move toward Concord, they are joined by more and more men.

The men gather along a stone wall lining the road to Concord, and a rider announces the British army is retreating. As the redcoats march past, they are shot at by Adam and the other colonials, who retreat into the fields and then move ahead of the retreating army. Adam experiences terror, exhilaration, confusion. A wounded redcoat shot from his horse turns out to be a boy not much older than Adam. The men, about 150 of them, move on to Lexington, where houses are burning. They cut over to the Menotomy Road to catch the British in their retreat from Lexington. From a windfall of trees, Adam shoots at the British until he passes out from exhaustion. He straggles back to his home.

Adam bathes and then goes to mourn for his father. He and Ruth declare their love. Cousin Simmons points out that all the men will have to decide whether to join what will become the Continental army, now forming to attack the British in Boston. Adam returns home to his grandmother and mother; now he is a man facing enormous decisions.