ALONE IN THE VALLEY by Kenneth Waymon Baker


Email this review


 First novel about an infantryman in Vietnam by a disabled Vietnam vet from Georgia. What immediately distinguishes this novel from others by writers like Larry Heinemann, Philip Caputo, or even Tim O'Brien is the touching naivetÇ of its young hero, Daniel Perdue. When we first meet him, he has just arrived in-country and is struggling manfully to comprehend what's going on. He's deeply offended by the constant, casual profanity of his fellow soldiers. When an artillery mission begins, he doesn't know it's friendly fire and drops to the ground in fear. As Baker puts it, Daniel ``was just one scared little boy trying his damndest not to look like a scared little boy.'' And while Daniel soon learns how to keep silent on patrol, how to identify punji sticks, and how to kill, he doesn't stop being a little boy, caught up in something monstrous, trying merely to survive. On the way through his tour, Daniel meets poor blacks, Hispanics, southern whites, and, of course, Vietnamese; Baker's way with dialogue is uncanny. No one here is cut out of cardboard, and there is no hatred in the book's tone, no swaggering, no politics. Daniel watches friend after friend die and is scarred and saddened forever; his loss of innocence is the fondest of tragedies. Yet there's a refreshing sweetness to Daniel, as in his long debate about whether to go with a prostitute. If he expects his future wife to be a virgin, which he does, then he should be, too. On the other hand, he might die before the sun sets, and he doesn't want to die pure. A well-written and unassuming debut novel whose very artlessness is its principle virtue. Though his voice is unique, Baker tells it exactly as it was.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 1-877946-17-6
Page count: 296pp
Publisher: Permanent Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1992