The Autobiography of Lewis B. Puller, Jr.
Email this review


 Son of Gen. Lewis ``Chesty'' Puller, the most decorated Marine ever, the author is a Vietnam vet who lost both legs and parts of both hands in the war. Here is his story, which seems to have as much to say about alcoholism as it does about the plight of the veteran. Puller does not acknowledge that he was an alcoholic prior to the war but, through the events he describes, the reader becomes aware of possible early-stage alcoholism. During the weeks prior to his departure for Officer Candidate School, for example, he embarked on a crash course of physical conditioning because of his ``four years of abuse'' to his body; on the day he graduated from OCS, he made sure that he ``had time to sign in...and still pick up a bottle...before the package store closed.'' And Puller recounts his drinking on his belated honeymoon and on the plane to Vietnam as a matter of course. His relationship with his father was one of admiration, he reports, though his early experience as a platoon leader convinced him that a military career was not for him. This and other steps in self-knowledge, however, appear to have been interrupted by his severe wounding. His description of his recovery is painful, heroic--and always clouded by alcohol. Even his sexual reunion in the hospital with his wife is accompanied by ``early afternoon tippling.'' In August 1969, as he began to ``look more closely at the Vietnam War and the leadership in Washington,'' he was angered by a mild statement made by another veteran in defense of protesters' right to free speech: in response, he ``[drank] too much that evening.'' Through long self-struggle, however, Puller has licked booze and now works as an attorney. Puller writes well; his story will appeal to veterans and their families, as well as those interested in the relationship between substance abuse and self-fulfillment.

Pub Date: June 17th, 1991
ISBN: 0-8021-1218-8
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1991