One soldier’s chaotic life serves as an instructive microcosm of the American military experience in Vietnam.


A Farewell to Arms and Legs


Hartman effectively captures the hectic life at a medical clearinghouse in this exhaustive journal of his in country experiences during the Vietnam War.

Hartman explains that he enlisted as a Goldwater conservative—“I hated liberals, ‘pinkos’, and socialists, but above all I hated that filthy slave of Moscow and Peking, Ho Chi Minh”—but his view of the war changed. “I had turned against the Vietnam adventure,” he says, “that grossly mistaken attempt to prop up the corrupt mandarins, landlords and generals of the Saigon regime against their own people.” Still, after contemplating a draft dodge in Canada, he went to Nam—“not out of patriotism, but out of fear: of being forever cut off from friends and family in the USA, of someday being grabbed by FBI slave-catchers and dragged back to a life sentence.” Per the memoir’s appropriate subtitle, the highs for Hartman included his indulging in many of the easily available drugs to numb the pain and exhaustion of working for the American military. The lows, which the surgical tech thoroughly tallies, involved many wounded and dead soldiers who passed through “Charley Med.” Sprinkled into the journal are doses of politics: “The American public—a huge, inscrutable, torpid, star-spangled toad—didn’t catch on,” he says. “‘America—love it or leave it’, said many bumper stickers, foreshadowing the equally stupid ‘Support our troops’ of Junior Bush’s regime.” Also appearing throughout is correspondence documenting his relationship with Stella, the girl he left behind in Texas. Hartman successfully adds perspective to the journal with narrative jumps in time that place his Vietnam year within the timeline of his life. The large cast of characters and military acronyms are difficult to manage, though they undoubtedly contributed to the feeling he and many others had of being overwhelmed by the military machine. Likewise, his recording of endless drug use by himself and fellow soldiers will leave many impressed, though the psychotropic jumble of observations goes toward explaining the continuing effects of the Vietnam War, not just on its participants, but on the American psyche.

One soldier’s chaotic life serves as an instructive microcosm of the American military experience in Vietnam.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 591

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2015

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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