QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was

Reviewed by Joni Bour

I have been thinking lately that book reviewers are probably pretty darned stuck-up. How else can you close the covers on someoneís deepest feelings and defining moments as to who they were and are and decide while sitting in front of their 17Ē lap top screen which ones were important? That is stuck up and as I finished this particular book I really struggled about what I could tell you that would make you search this book out and read it.

It isnít your typical war story with blood and thunder. It isnít about one man who takes on a whole platoon of enemy soldiers and takes out a machine gun nest single handedly with a grenade, rocket launcher and bungee cord. No, it isnít anything like that. It is about a young man who went to foreign land to fight a war, but whose real battles began when he came home safe and sound and met the worst possible enemy in how own back yard.

I decided that what you should know about this book is what I hope we all will know about life and living it: That people can be heroes both for what they do and what they donít do. Itís true. Living an ordinary life can be quite extraordinary when you do it right- when you do it at all...........

Jack was a regular guy who joined the military because he didnít want to get drafted. He and his pals thought they had the system all figured out. But here is the craziest part of all; He went to Vietnam and if one can be lucky in the time of war, he was. He survived, probably mainly because his job was not a combat position. He came home, happy to be alive, looking forward to his sports car dream, maybe a girl and a job that did not involve a green uniform. He had his whole life ahead of him. He got in a car with a friend who knew nothing about the perils of life and death in the jungles of Vietnam and the fact that his friend had beat the odds and took a car ride that would change his life forever. His friend drove him through their old stomping grounds all familiar and pleasant. It began to rain and his friend showed off, showing how fast he could drive, then how the car could fish tail and then shockingly, how a Volkswagen can crash into a power pole and how one person can walk away from a wreck like that and another can be paralyzed.

I donít wish to give you the readerís digest version of the book, I want you to read it, but I will say that what I found most remarkable about this book is how the author tells about the seemingly ordinary things in one personís life that become quite extraordinary to the reader when they realize they are things done by a man who has no use of his legs. A soldier who once had to run and crawl and climb, instantly transformed into someone quite different, sometimes confined to a bed unable to move and partake in life. A soldier who once survived in a time of war with one dream - owning a fancy little sports car - now relying on the government actually taking him off active duty because he could no longer walk across a room. The story is heartbreaking for about five minutes, then it becomes one of the most uplifting stories about the simplest things you can think of - living a life!

At a time when a man could give up, become a turnip or a carrot and allow other people to attend to his every need until he had no needs, he took chances and thrived. At a time when you or I might fall apart, screaming and crying only to find out we cannot even have a proper tantrum because we cannot kick our feet - he rose up, standing tall, not with his legs, but with his spirit. He could have decided to lay down and die, but he decided to sit up and live. This authorís book is about living. So many people these days spend most of their lives existing and forget about the living part, taking for granted the simplest things, the biggest things seem so ordinary that they donít even notice than one turn of the wheel, one ride in a car changes everything. Would you choose to live or would you choose to die? Do you have the fortitude to dig deep and find reasons life has offered or would you just stop breathing? Read the book, it might change your whole way of thinking about things you never really though about before.

EMAIL Joni Bour

RETURN To The Bookshelf

Posted 8/15/06