SHOPPING CART SOLDIERS by John Mulligan

SHOPPING CART SOLDIERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Autobiographical detail provides potent fuel for this uncommon saga of a Vietnam vet's long, agonizing reorganization of the fragments of his war-torn psyche--a moving first novel from San Francisco--based Mulligan. The trials of Finn are only beginning when his tour in Vietnam ends and he's dumped back in the States to fend for himself. His family having emigrated from Scotland just in time for him to be drafted, Finn went to war with even less reason for being there than his fellow grunts--and quickly lost his grip after witnessing the senseless slaughter of a magnificent white bull, then having to fulfill a blood pact with his closest friend, who was wounded in an ambush. Soulless, Finn comes home to wife and child, but his alcoholism drives them away, and he spends 12 years homeless, pushing a shopping cart and sleeping in a park along with other vets. His condition deteriorates almost to the point of no return, but his soul/anima (which he calls ""Madman"") has stuck close in hopes of making him whole again; in a series of magical transformations set in motion by his strong sense of Celtic identity--and aided by the unlikely figure of Robert Louis Stevenson--Finn slowly accepts Madman, along with the more unsavory part of himself he calls ""Redeyes."" His friends who died in Vietnam, and whose bloody ghosts have long tormented him, are finally laid to rest along with his addiction, allowing him to return to Scotland to prove himself worthy of his heritage. The heroic recovery here is as much personal triumph as reminder of a national shame. Mulligan's fine telling of the story ought to help open a door of hope for others who may have been destroyed like Finn and are still left behind.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0684856050
Page count: 246pp
Publisher: Curbstone