A painful yet impressive account of the effects of war on the families left behind.




A focused Vietnam War–era history of the “wives and families…left behind for war.”

The Boys of ’67, the author’s intimate history of an infantry company in Vietnam, was well-received when it was published in 2012, and it became the basis for the National Geographic special Brothers in War. Here, Wiest (History/Univ. of Southern Mississippi; Vietnam: A View from the Front Lines, 2013, etc.) revisits the material, adding interviews and covering similar ground, this time from the perspectives of the soldiers’ wives and families. The result is a moving work as stirring as its predecessor. The format jumps back and forth among two dozen wives across seven chapters; the recollections begin with their childhoods and continue through their present lives. The 1966 draft took men, married or not, soon after they reached 18. Men in college were exempt, so the resulting Army was not a cross-section of the population, and readers will be unnerved at the impoverished backgrounds of so many. A private’s pay gave many their first taste of financial security. Women married younger in those days, and many couples were courting when the draft notice arrived. Consequently, there were hasty marriages, and a surprising number of men left for Vietnam with their wives pregnant or with small children. The women had a miserable time. Often fresh out of high school, they struggled alone but with remarkable success to make a home, earn a living, and care for an infant, always aware that their husbands were in mortal danger. Normal life sometimes resumed after their service, but more often than not, the men were emotionally damaged, withdrawn, or abusive. Some marriages recovered, but others didn’t, and it’s quite possible that the author has omitted the worst cases.

A painful yet impressive account of the effects of war on the families left behind.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4728-2749-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Osprey Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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