The Bukowski Agency - For Your Tomorrow

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60,000 words / Manuscript available


Canada: Random House, May 2011


Melanie Murray

Melanie Murray has been teaching courses in literature and composition at Okanagan College in Kelowna, B.C., for twenty-two years. Captain Francis was her nephew.

For Your Tomorrow
The Way of an Unlikely Soldier

by Melanie Murray


For Your Tomorrow - Canadian cover

Jeff Francis was a 30-year-old doctoral candidate and practising Buddhist when he decided that the armed forces were the best way to make a difference in the world. His aunt, Melanie Murray, tries to understand why, and to illuminate one family’s struggle with grief.

When their early morning patrol of an Afghan village winds up on the 4th of July 2007, Captain Jeff Francis climbs into the back of an RG-31 Nyala. It isn’t the vehicle he normally rides in, but his LAV and crew are a kilometre away. He pulls the hatch tight and nods to the men inside the dark steel box. Half an hour later, as the convoy rumbles along the desert road, a deafening explosion launches the RG a hundred feet into the air. It crashes down on its side against a mud-brick wall. Not a movement is seen through the egg-shelled windows. Not a sound is heard from within the steel-encased tomb.

One hundred and forty Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, but there are no books about the lives of these soldiers or their families. What compels these young men and women to risk everything for a people thousands of miles away? What is it like to have your son or husband in a war zone, to have him die a violent death, and come home in a flag-draped casket? Do families ever recover from such a loss?  For Your Tomorrow illuminates such questions. It is the first book of literary non-fiction that will allow Canadians to take a journey inside the life of one of our fallen soldiers. By putting a human face on the statistics, this book will change the way Canadians perceive their soldiers and the Afghanistan mission.

“Freud, Jung, and their followers have demonstrated irrefutably,” wrote Joseph Campbell, “that the logic, the heroes, and the deeds of myth survive into modern times.” For Your Tomorrow is a testimony to this statement. Tracing the arc of Jeff’s life—from his birth on Remembrance Day, 1970 to his death on Independence Day, 2007—the book unveils the mythical underpinnings of his journey: his decision to abandon his PhD dissertation and become a soldier at age thirty was a culmination of a life-long search for purpose, his quest and his destiny. And like mythical heroes, he faced the ultimate trial—giving his life to something greater than himself.

As literary non-fiction, the book uses the devices of fiction to tell a true story: setting, scenes, dialogue, characterization, figurative language, and shifting points of view. An omniscient third person narrator relates Jeff’s experiences and delves into his consciousness. This narrator also depicts the thoughts and feelings of Jeff’s family members and his comrades. As a memoir, For Your Tomorrow narrates my first person account of a family thrown into the maelstrom of war, death, and grief. When a soldier goes to war, so does his family. By witnessing the descent of Jeff’s family into the hell of grief, readers will understand the human cost of every soldier’s death. The book also charts my own inner journey: from a pacifist idealist, a non-supporter of the Afghanistan mission, to an advocate of the soldiers who risk their lives for a suffering people and our own national security.


“By 2012, Canada’s combat role in Afghanistan will be over. The end of a nation’s involvement in combat activities forces a communal process of contextualizing and ultimately mythologizing the ordeal. Thus the importance of For Your Tomorrow…. Murray’s powerful work contains the emotional resonance currently lacking in much of the writing about our involvement in the Afghan conflict. . . . In Murray’s hands, her nephew becomes an emblem for all our war dead. Murray’s writing is elegiac and lyrical. She reaches for the language to convey something utterly personal and, in the process, soars into the deeply profound. The function of grief literature is to give the reader solace that life goes on despite death and loss. This book is a worthy volume not just for those searching for catharsis, but also for a nation looking to bear witness to the full measure of our soldiers’ sacrifice”  — QUILL AND QUIRE, starred review

“A lovely, thoughtful, and unsentimental memoir.”  — THE GLOBE AND MAIL, Toronto

“Jeff Francis gave his life not only for his comrades and their mission; he gave it with the firm conviction that it was his duty to humanity. This detailed account of the two lives of a Canadian captain reveals his metamorphosis from a student-philosopher to a dedicated military leader and father, deeply committed to his family and ancestry. A most worthy read.”  — LGEN. THE HON. ROMÉO DALLAIRE (Ret’d), author of Shake Hands with the Devil and They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children

“Melanie Murray sketches the life and tragic death of one Canadian soldier with such a tender regard for his motives that she allows us to comprehend the sacrifice without ever asking that we accept the war. She takes us to the heart of a grieving family as it struggles to find meaning within calamity. Through a sweep of history and myth – both personal and universal – she gives insight into a tragedy so many Canadian families have experienced. In the end, we come to share her family’s understanding of Jeff’s quest for higher purpose. This is an evocative and poignant story, written with style and compassion.”  — CAROL OFF, author of The Lion, the Fox and the Eagle, The Ghosts of Medak Pocket and Bitter Chocolate

“This is a profound work… powerful and important.”  — KAREN CONNELLY



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