A veteran tries to come to terms with the traumatic experiences he had a generation earlier in Vietnam.
At the core of the novel is the voice of David Granger, a combination of Archie Bunker and Marlow of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. When the novel opens, Granger is 68, and he’s still haunted by his experiences in Vietnam. There, he’d witnessed darkness and violence on an unimaginable scale and was complicit in that violence. His postwar life included “some crazy time in a military loony bin in Kansas,” and every day he still dresses top to toe in camouflage and carries a sidearm in an ankle holster. His wife now dead, Granger contemptuously patronizes his son, Hank, an art dealer. (His wife, an artist, had named their son Henri Rousseau Granger, but David can’t stomach the effete name.) David is casual and defensive about his prejudices, and he both recognizes and denies these prejudices in equal measure. But the narrator is not wholly unsympathetic—he had obviously deeply loved his wife, and he dotes on his 7-year-old granddaughter, Ella. After a terrible car crash that leads to the discovery of a brain tumor David attributes to his long-ago exposure to Agent Orange, he decides to “right a wrong” he committed during the war. He stole a knife from Clayton Fire Bear, a Native American who collected scalps as part of his own traumatic war experience. With the help of a buddy of his from his Vietnam days, Granger goes on a quest to find the elusive Fire Bear. The final reunion with Fire Bear, now a lawyer, is far more surprising than what Granger had expected or imagined.
A valuable addition to fiction about the tangled aftereffects of Vietnam on soldiers in the field.