Before you ever pick up this book, you need to decide what sort of student of the world you are. We are all students in one way or another- some of us want to know clinically, scientifically how something goes. We want only the black and white, no emotional grays or reds to muddy the water. We only want to know what statistics will prove and history books will retell. Others of us want to know what really happened, the heart of the story, the colors other than the black and the white. We need to see the story with our hearts and the important parts that will never be printed in history books. So before I tell you what I thought of this book, I need to know what sort of student you are. If you are the scientist, then donít read further. Neither my review nor this book is has anything for you. If you are a student of the heart and the mind and know even black and white make another color when mixed together, then I would like to offer this book to you.
Mr. Barrett is not a polished writer, but he does not profess himself to be anything other than a Vietnam veteran with a story to tell. He would tell you this book is fiction and, because I am not a veteran myself, I cannot argue with the storyteller. But I will say this; although the author tells you his characters are fabricated, I would venture to say I sense they are woven from the threads of his memories. The actual events perhaps are made up, but the emotion of the story is not. The young characters in his book may never have existed individually, but I believe they are all an accumulation of many young men who grew old together in a war that stole their youth, spirits and pieces of their bodies, minds and souls. It is a fictionalized truth. You canít really make up a story like this and not have it be something people will read unless you first lived something just like it and made it through, perhaps not untouched, but alive and with your spirit mostly intact. People recognize a lot of talk and no walk when they see it. This book is the talk of a man who has done the walk and you can feel, touch and sense it with all of your being.
The story has a conversational feel to it and as I said, it isnít very polished. But because of its down to earth quality, it seems as if a real soldier is telling the story- not a researcher or someone with a team of assistants and editors to ď fix the storyĒ. The novel has a certain touching quality that many other books lack because it feels right. It isn't Hollywood, but frankly, who wants anymore of that? The real Vietnam War, the one not fought on a motion picture screen is the one we should want to read about. This novel is told in a way you can imagine the young man and the other men he served with. You can picture it all, some of it makes you laugh, some of it makes you scared, and some if it should shame us as a nation. It does not contain the thoughts of the secretary of state or a generalís version of how the war might have been better fought. I have never been to war, but have studied the Vietnam War my entire life and have often heard veterans say that much of what they went through as young soldiers was bearable only because of the close bonds they had with other young men that become their brothers. Much of this story shows this, and in fact, this story really isnít about what war costs in dollars and cents or bullets and bombs or loss or gain of land, but the cost in human life and spirit and the struggle that any young soldier might fight - both with the enemy and himself.
I would recommend this novel because I believe even though it is fiction, it is also as true as any book you will likely ever read about the soldier of the Vietnam War. The fact that it is a bit rough around the edges makes it all the more real and memorable compared to the piles of others that have been mass produced and are easily forgetable.
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