A debut memoir about a student with learning disabilities who, through guidance, luck, and a stint in the U.S. military, got accepted to Northwestern University’s medical school.
Turner says in an introduction that he’d originally intended to write down his memories only for his children, but then he thought that some of his stories might have wider appeal—and, in this, he’s right. His account provides a close-up view of his late-1960s studies to become a medic; most of his colleagues were later shipped off to Vietnam, where they faced grave danger. Turner’s own two-year stint in the Army is at the heart of the book, but he began his journey in a small Southern Illinois farming community. He writes that his dyslexia and attention deficit disorder resulted in academic challenges throughout his life and that he chose to enlist after he almost failed out of his first year at Blackburn College. He was assigned to a medical dispensary at the Pentagon after medic training, and his descriptions of the Pentagon as a city unto itself, before the existence of cellphones or the internet, are compelling. Turner’s prose is clear and informative, as when he describes the Pentagon internal phone system: “this network included one hundred thousand miles of telephone wire…enough to encircle the globe four times at the equator.” Turner remembers being on duty in Washington in 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated, and this historical material is often compelling. He also highlights how his grandparents and good teachers helped him during his life, during which he eventually found success as a doctor. That said, the book might have been improved by a stronger edit, particularly when the author tells other people’s war stories. However, readers who are interested in this memoir’s setting—primarily the ’60s, in a predominately male domain—will find this book of interest.
An informative account of 1960s stateside military life by a man who lived it.