Back To Vietnam by Elaine Head
Kirkus Star

Back To Vietnam

Tours of the Heart
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KIRKUS REVIEW

An intimate travel memoir tracing one veteran’s journey from war to reconciliation.

This moving debut, co-authored by a retired career Army officer and his wife, reveals how a trip to confront the ghosts of his Vietnam War experience led to affinity for Vietnamese culture, a humanitarian commitment, annual three-month stays, and deep friendships with many Vietnamese, including former enemies. Logan and Head take turns narrating self-contained vignettes that advance the larger story in an effective contrapuntal style. Logan served two tours, first as a lieutenant in the thick of combat, then as a captain at a beachfront hotel headquarters. His accounts of battles, brotherhood, brothels, bureaucracy and postwar brooding set a fitting opening tone. Head, a retired corporate trainer with a big heart, gentle spirit, and Buddhist leanings, grew up in Canada and married Logan after both were divorced with grown children. She contributes a more dispassionate view of the war as well as helpful insights about her husband. “Vietnam, A Country Not a War,” her introduction to Part 2, epitomizes the book’s message. They share keen observations about the places they’ve been and introspective feelings about the people they meet. Scenes are colorful, chaotic, and full of contrasts, reflecting Vietnam itself—a communist country lacking social services, full of bustling cities with utility outages, agrarian culture facing bulldozers, and tin-roof huts with satellite dishes. Vestiges of war—rusted fuselages, elders missing limbs, and children with Agent Orange–related birth defects—are everywhere; so is hospitality. Logan and Head began as outsiders smuggling toothbrushes and personal care donations. They grew into part-time residents, distributing portable school libraries and providing managerial support for a startup that employs the disabled. In the process, the couple running that enterprise essentially adopted them as family. Historical context helps reshape wartime caricatures as the authors write with a sense of immediacy and attention to detail that fully invoke the moment and setting for each encounter.

Gracefully transports readers on an odyssey that transcends the exotic locale and legacies of war to focus on the power of human connection.

Pub Date: April 15th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-9917623-0-9
Page count: 341pp
Publisher: JOTH Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2015




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