Books by Ben Purcell

Released: Feb. 17, 1992

An affectingly homespun and gritty account of how US Army Colonel Ben Purcell and his wife Anne coped with his five years (1968-73) as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. Trading off chapters, Ben describes what it's like to have your life taken from you in one stroke of bad luck, while Anne details a sort of widowhood in which she struggles to preserve a tightly woven life in the absence of her beloved partner. The Vietnam-set chapters are gripping, full of drama and telling detail. Knowing he will not get medical aid without cooperating, Purcell spills the beans on US infantry tactics to one ``Pugnose''- -they are based, he says, on man-to-man vs. zone coverage, safety blitzes, end-runs, etc. Pugnose buys Purcell's football-inspired fakery, and the prisoner gets a doctor of sorts. When interrogator ``Crisco'' asks Purcell where the Americans are now that Purcell needs them, a US fighter plane appears from nowhere at treetop level, followed by a deafening sonic boom that terrifies Crisco and ends the interview. Eventually Purcell escapes, but is recaptured, isolated, and forced to subsist on rice and hot water. (The appearance of tea signals further interrogation.) Back home, Anne, who up to now has made all major decisions with her husband, copes with the void as best she can, keeps the car running, and fights the pull of despair, holding her young family (five children) together as much by prayer as by anything. And that is the same glue that binds her husband together: the faith that is the message of this book. At its center is a calm fearlessness that is almost unnerving, even as Purcell's lack of rancor toward his captors is impressive. A powerful, engrossing, well-written documentation of quiet heroism on two fronts. (Sixteen pages of photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >