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When incoming fire lights up the sky over the good old boys at Fire Base Harriet in Vietnam, the tough soldiers just look at each other and settle in, certain that the nearly 100 of them will die. And all but one are visited by the descending brightness that tears their bodies apart. The ghost of one of these soldiers narrates the story of survivor Paco Sullivan, who lies covered with flies and dirt for two days before being rescued. Badly scarred and limping, he returns to the States and becomes an introspective dishwasher in a small Texas town. This is a well-written, ruminative work in an easy-going, down-home dialect that makes the awful memories of the warthankfullya little bit distant. Heinemann (Close Quarters has a promising talent, but his novel needs a sense of propulsion, not just excellent tales and fine dialogue; and his women should also be more than lusty objects of men's desires. As is, his work is just short of important. (December 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Larry Heinemann made his initial literary mark with Close Quarters (Booklist 74:22 S 1 77), which featured vivid descriptions of the horrors of Vietnam. Billed as a sequel to that tale, Paco's Story charts the final, near-fatal battlefield experience of one Paco Sullivan, his eventual recovery in a field hospital, and his return to civilian life, in which he encounters the insensitivities of his fellow citizens back in the States (``Them Vietnam boys sure do think you owe them something, don't they?''). With his ``1,000-meter stare,'' Paco takes a job as a dishwasher in a roadside hash house, haunted by his memories of Southeast Asia and the brutality of war. Heinemann's coarse, sometimes poetic imagery ``the moonlit, starlit image of weeds and reeds and bamboo saplings and bubbling marsh slime burns itself into the back of your head in the manner of Daguerre's first go with a camera obscura'' raises his tale above the level of a starkly depressing Vietnam memoir (e.g., Donald Bodey's F.N.G., Booklist 82:309 O 15 85). MAB. [OCLC] 86-19527
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Lone survivor of a Viet Cong night attack that wipes out the 90-plus men of Alpha Company, Paco Sullivan returns to civilian life after much time spent in military hospitals. Narrated by a nameless dead soldier from Alpha Company, this intense, vividly written tale interweaves Paco's infantry days in Vietnam with his Valium- and Librium-soothed afterlife as a dishwasher in a smalltown cafe. This second novel by the author of the critically acclaimed Close Quarters ( LJ 6/1/77) is likewise a very frightening, yet wondrously rendered tale of violent extremes of human behavior. A strongly emotional reading experience, it is highly recommended for collections of serious contemporary fiction. James B. Hemesath, Adams State Coll. Lib., Alamosa, Col. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.