Just, Ward. Stringer. Graywolf Press, 1984.

Reason read: Just celebrates a birthday in September. Read in his honor.

Stringer is a Civilian Intelligence Agent sent on a mission to Vietnam to destroy an enemy supply convoy. He has a sly sense of humor. When paired with a Captain named Price, Stringer must practice patience. Price is younger, more impulsive, yet in charge. There is no casual conversation between the two men. Neither has confidence in the other. They are on the same team but distrust keeps them miles apart. To keep himself from thinking too much about Price, Stringer recalls his failures: his marriage, their visit to a classmate in a mental institution, Stringer’s short time as a newspaper man. These recollections keep him on task in the present. Ever present is Just’s commentary on the damage of war.
As an aside, the double murder came as a shock and I don’t know why. I should have seen it coming. As an aside, is the trick to aiming and firing a gun to breathe out and pull the trigger when the lungs are at their emptiest and the heart has slowed? I seem to have read this before. Maybe Lee Child had Reacher fire a gun this way?

Quote to quote, “That was the wonderful thing about hindsight, it was morbid, no optimism in hingsight” (p 6), “Eyes and Brains were not equal to the circumstances, they were too selective” (p 118)

Author fact: Ward Just’s middle name is Swift. What an interesting name.

Book trivia: Despite being a slim volume, Just packs in a great deal of action, emotion, and character.

Nancy said: besides saying Ward Just is too good to miss, she mentions Stringer as another book by him.

Playlist: Brunis, Zutty, George Mitchell, Alcide Pavageau, Fitzhugh, Kid Ory, Sassoon, and the Oliver Band.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Ward Just: Too Good To Miss” (p 135).

Man in the Box

Dunn, Mary Lois. The Man in the Box: a Story From Vietnam. McGraw Hill, 1968.

Reason read: I read somewhere that March 8th is Hug a G.I. Day. I read this in honor of the thousands of men kept in little boxes from every war.

If you read this book with a child’s intent, it is a story about a young boy who knows the worth of a human life and tries with heroic measures to save it. If you read this book with an adult’s cynicism, it is a book that glorifies American soldiers in the Vietnam War and completely misses the point of the Vietnamese culture. My advice is to read it as Mary Lois Dunn intended: as a story for children. Chau Li witnesses the horrible torture of an American soldier kept cramped prisoner in a small cane box. His own father suffered in same-such box but did not survive the brutality. Determined to somehow save the American, Chau Li risks everything to squirrel “Dah Vid” away in a cave until together they can safely rejoin the Green Barets hidden somewhere in the deep Vietnamese jungle. As they hide out from the Viet Cong Chau Li and Dah Vid grow close, form a friendship and make unrealistic promises. Spoiler alert: the end is ambiguous which is surprising for a book meant for children.

Author fact: Mary Lois Dunn was a librarian.

Book trivia: The Man in the Box won the Oklahoma Sequoyah Children’s Book Award in 1968.

Nancy said: Pearl called The Man in the Box “harrowing and sad” and although it is long out of print, it is “definitely worth tracking down” (Book Lust p 115).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Historical Fiction For Kids Of All Ages” (p 115).

In the City of Fear

Just, Ward. In the City of Fear. New York: Viking Press, 1982.

Reason read: Ward Just’s birth month is in September. Read in his honor.

The political arena of Washington D.C. sets the stage for Ward Just’s In the City of Fear. Amidst the unwinnable war in Vietnam those in charge are growing more and more afraid. Politicians, military personnel, newspaper bigwigs, even rich housewives are caught up in the confusion and distrust. Their public society has turned into one of late night secret meetings and closed door whisperings. At the center of the story is confusion and distrust of another kind: a love triangle. Congressman Piatt Warden turns a blind eye to what really matters around him while Sam Joyce, an army colonel stays faithful to a woman he can’t have, Piatt’s wife, Marina.
For me, the most profound scene was the funeral at the end. The scene laid bare all the harsh realities of saying goodbye to the deceased; each mourner trying to stake a claim as the widow, the father, the sibling, the best friend, or colleague. Who knew the departed best? Who loved him most?

Admittedly, I had a crush on Sam Joyce. Was it the last name, so close to an Irish author named James? Was it the fact he was so steadfastly faithful to a married woman? It certainly wasn’t because it signed up for five consecutive tours of duty in Vietnam.

Quotes to quote, “It’s the unnaturalness of your condition that you cling to” (p 171), and “Well, it was before they knew that the war was impossible to win” (p 158).

Author fact: this is going to be a super trivial fact, but the author photo on the back cover of In the City of Fear states Just is 46 years old. If that is the case, he is a very old looking 46 with a lot of worry in his face. Maybe it’s the cigarette clenched between his lips and the drawn in eyebrows, frowning above hooded eyes?

Book trivia: this is Ward Just’s 7th novel. Additionally, In the City of Fear is a popular title. Hewson, Burke, Enmon and Wilson have all used it.

Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about In the City of Fear.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Ward Just: Too Good To Miss” (p 136).

Best and the Brightest

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Reason read: the United States pulled out of Vietnam in the month of March.

Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest is a deep dive into the origins of the Vietnam War. It is a scrutiny of the policies and procedures crafted during the Kennedy administration that led to the consequences in Vietnam. The meat of the book takes place between the years of 1960 and 1965 but flows back and forth to earlier and later times to give substance to the timeline. What really helps the narrative is that Halberstam was a reporter during this time. He was at the heart of the perfect storm: the fall of China, the rise of McCarthy and the outbreak of the Korean War. This trifecta of events had a profound and lasting effect on the White House and domestic politics of the time.

A single line I really liked, “In government it is always easier to go forward with a program that doesn’t work than to stop it all together and admit failure” (p 212). Isn’t that human nature in a nutshell?

Author fact: I cannot help but wonder what books Halberstam would have written had he not been killed in a car accident at the age of 73.

Book trivia: I always love the photographs Halberstam chooses for his books. The photos in The Best and the Brightest are no different.

Nancy said: Pearl called The Best and the Brightest “hefty, riveting and definitive” (p 238). Agreed, agreed, and agreed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust and More Book Lust. In Book Lust in the chapter called “Vietnam” (p 238) and in More Book Lust in the super obvious chapter called “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112).

March to a Different Drummer

I will make a return to racing in two weeks. My last public run was in July. I’m not ready. Simply not. March is also two Natalie Merchant concerts. A return to my favorite voice. Here are the books:


  • Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais – in honor of March being a rainy month. Dumb, I know.
  • Topper by Thorne Smith – in honor of Smith’s birth month being in March.
  • Giant by Edna Ferber – in honor of Texas becoming a state in March.


  • Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam – in honor of March being the month the U.S. finally pulled out of Vietnam.
  • Cherry: a Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard by Sara Wheeler in honor of March being the month Apsley ended his depot journey.

Series Continuation:

  • Gemini by Dorothy Dunnett – to finally finish the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
  • Blackout by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza – to finish the series started in February in honor of the Carnival festival in Brazil.
  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
  • The Moor by Laurie R. King – to continue the series started in January in honor of Mystery Month.

For fun:

  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – still reading
  • Sharp by Michelle Dean – still reading
  • Calypso by David Sedaris – needed for the Portland Public Library reading challenge.
  • Living with the Little Devil Man by Lina Lisetta – written by a faculty member.
  • Hidden Southwest edited by Ray Riegert – for my May trip.
  • 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz – for my May trip…and the 2020 Italy trip.

Lotus Eaters

Soli, Tatjana. The Lotus Eaters. Read by Kirsten Potter. Blackstone Audio, 2010.

In the year of 1975 North Vietnam is still pushing towards Saigon. It’s the end of the Vietnam war (or American war, depending on who you ask). The Lotus Eaters opens with the city’s demise being eminent and the panic to escape, mounting. Caught in this frenzy is Helen Adams, a seasoned American photojournalist, and her Vietnamese lover, Lihn. Stepping back in time, we learn that Helen is following in the footsteps of her soldier brother, killed in action earlier in the war. She has come to Vietnam to research his death and ultimately falls in love with the war.  As we follow Helen from her first arriving in Saigon, we witness her naivete and her desperate need to belong. Quickly, she attaches herself to Sam Darrow, a fellow photojournalist who has been around the block a few times. He is supposed to be a hard-nosed, loner of a photographer, but he and Helen soon develop a romantic relationship that defies logic and marriage vows. Sam’s assistant, Lihn complicates things when he too falls in love with Helen. In the midst of well-worn war, emerges a not-so obvious love triangle.
In other reviews I have read the complaint is Soli takes the story too far, drags it out too long. I disagree. Each phase of Helen’s time in Vietnam, as well as her time away, builds a layer of her personality and adds to the complexity of her emotions. I am of two minds about the beginning, though. Soli reveals upfront that Lihn is Helen’s lover and they are desperate to get out of Saigon. That information nagged at me throughout the rest of the telling because I knew it was coming. For example, I expected something to happen to Darrow because the shift in Helen’s relationship with Lihn. It was a matter of when this something would happen that kept me guessing.

Reason read: Saigon fell in the month of April. Confessional: this was a little longer than I anticipated so I listened to it a few days into May.

Author fact: The Lotus Eaters is Tatjana Soli’s first book.

Reader fact: Kirsten Potter graduated from Boston University.

Book trivia: The Lotus Eaters won the James Tait Black Prize in 2010.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply called “Vietnam” (p 248). Duh.

Descending the Dragon

Bowermaster, Jon. Descending the Dragon: My Journey Down the Coast of Vietnam. Washington D.C.: National Geographic, 2008.

I knew that I would learn fascinating things when I read Descending the Dragon. I didn’t expect to learn details like the city of Hanoi had a french designer or that none of the buildings could be higher than Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. And speaking of Ho Chi Minh, visitors can traipse past his embalmed body today despite the fact he died 44 years ago. His body is re-embalmed every 2-3 years. Freaky.
This is the journey of traveler Jon Bowermaster. He is used to traversing the globe solo, on assignment for National Geographic and The New York Times (to name a few). The adventure in Descending the Dragon is unlike any other. Bowermaster and a small team of four take to kayaking down Vietnam’s northern coastline. Seeing Vietnam from the water was a completely different experience for Bowermaster. He gained a much different perspective of the fishing communities and beach dwellers than if he had approached them from land. As much as he would have liked to have traveled the entire coast by water government restrictions forced him and his crew to travel by land on occasion. Probably the most poignant moment in the book was when Bowermaster was visiting a pagoda and met a monk who desperately wanted to tell him something but couldn’t out of fear of betraying the government. Later Bowermaster is told, “Be careful what you use of our words, our faces – because, if the government gets wind of even a small complaint made by us, you will be gone from here and you will have no idea what happens to us” (p 129). It is a land of beautiful contradictions.

The photography of Rob Howard is spectacular. While the Vietnamese loved to have their photo taken and were ready for him with a pose Jon was able to catch them in candid portraits. None of the images look contrived or staged. Howard has a fascinating website detailing his work.

Reason read: In celebration of my birthday because Vietnam has always fascinated me. Yay.

Author fact: Jon Bowermaster has his own website (of course). He sells his kayak adventures on dvd and posts blogs about really cool things (like fracking).

Book trivia: As I mentioned earlier, the photography for Descending the Dragon was by Rob Howard. Spend some time on his freaking amazing website. I could have spent all day clicking around it.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Water, Water Everywhere” (p 274).

To What End

Just, Ward. To What End: Report From Vietnam. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1968.

Disclaimer: I threw this on my December list because somewhere I got the idea that Ward Just was born in December. Not so. He was born in September (so I have been told), so this was a mistake in the timeline.

Ward Just’s To What End is his first book and is a first hand account of the Vietnam War. As a journalist he begs the question everyone wanted to ask (and is still asking), “what business does the United States have fighting this war?” The entire time you are reading To What End you never lose sight of the fact that Just is a writer and not a solider. He views the war always from the point of view of plot, “there was a book as good as Farewell to Arms in the stories, if you had the wit to see it and the imagination to generalize from it” (p 165). And generalize Ward does. He doesn’t bother to cover all aspects of the Vietnam War, just the parts he is directly involved it. He doesn’t include an index because he doesn’t want to complicate the telling with too much detail. He has been advised to keep it short for the same reason. The end result is a quick straightforward commentary.

Striking lines: “It is the first war where an academic could walk about undisturbed (and relatively safe) and probe and take soundings” (p 79), and “The Vietnamese laugh both from amusement and embarrassment and you can never tell which” (p 102).

Author Fact: Ward Just born in September. I need to commit that to memory.

Book Trivia: To What End is Ward Just’s first book.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called ” Ward Just: Too Good To Miss” (p 135).

In Country

Mason, Bobbie Ann. In Country. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1985.

In Country is deceivingly simple. The language is so straightforward and uncomplicated you think it was originally written for children. Here’s the scoop: 17-year-old Samantha Hughes acts obsessed with the Vietnam War. She lives with her vet uncle and pesters him daily about the possibility of Agent Orange reeking havoc with his health. He has bad acne on his face and strange headaches. Despite having a boyfriend her own age Sam also starts to fall in love with a local mechanic, another vet. To the average witness Sam’s fixation with all things Vietnam is borderline mania, but Sam has good reason. The father she never knew was lost in the war. He died when she was only two months old. He never came home. No one knows very much about him and if they do they aren’t saying much. As a result Sam feels her entire existence is shrouded in mystery. After being rejected by the vet and reading her father’s journal Sam decides she needs a change of pace. She loads her uncle and paternal grandmother in her clunker car and travels from Kentucky to Washington D.C., to The Wall. There the entire family finds some sort of closure.

I had to come back and modify this review because I forgot to point out the best thing about this book. Sam has another obsession – music. I love the way the hits of the 80s, especially Bruce Springsteen’s album ‘Born in the USA’ ground the reader and orient him/her to the timeframe of the story.

Author Fact: Bobbie Ann Mason wrote criticisms and short stories before writing In Country, her first novel.

Book Trivia: As a best-selling novel In Country was made into a movie in 1989 and starred Bruce Willis. In Country is even studied in high school English classes.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Maiden Voyages” (p 159). Pearl liked it enough to mention it again in another chapter called “Teenage Times” (p 216).

May 2011 was…

May was a month of deja vu. The Just Cause walk. Wanting to go home. Same old, same old. Nearly everything I read this month reminded me of something else I have already read. Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann reminded me of The Defiant Hero by the same author was the most obvious because the plot and characters were very similar. Almost too similar. To Sir, With Love by E.R. Braithwaite reminded me of Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell. They had similar plot lines: taking on a difficult classroom of students as a new teacher. Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham reminded me of Where the Pavement Ends by Erika Warmbrunn. Two stories about traveling through difficult, foreign terrain by bicycle.

So, here’s the list:

  • To Sir, With Love by E.R. Braithwaite ~ in honor of National Education Month. This was a really quick (but good) read. Read in one day.
  • Catfish and Mandala: a Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam by Andrew X. Pham ~ in honor of May’s Memorial Day. This was probably my favorite book on the list.
  • Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann ~ in honor of Brockmann’s birth month. I have mixed feelings about this book (as my review pointed out). Read in one day.
  • A Child’s Life and Other Stories by Phoebe Gloeckner ~ in honor of May being Graphic Novel month. This was super hard to “read.” Read in one day.
  • Antigone the play by Sophocles ~ in honor of May being the best time to visit Greece. I keep forgetting this plot so it was good to read it again. Read in one day.
  • Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong ~ in honor of Asian-American Heritage month. Read over a weekend. This was one of my favorites.
  • Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery ~ in honor of Eeyore’s birth month. This was an audio book and very different than everything else I have listened to so far.
  • Seabiscuit: an American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand ~ in honor of the Kentucky Derby.
  • The Dean’s List by Jon Hassler ~ in honor of Minnesota becoming a state in May. This reminded me a little too much of my own work place!
  • A Bintel Brief: Sixty Years of Letters From the Lower East Side to the Jewish Daily Forward edited by Isaac Metzker. Read in two days.
  • City of Light by Lauren Belfer ~ in honor of history month. Interesting story about Niagara Falls and the advancement of electricity at the turn of the century.
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi ~ in honor of May being the best time to visit Iran. This was amazing. Can’t wait for part II. 
  • Friday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kemelman ~ in honor of Prayer Day being the first Thursday in May. This was a fun murder mystery. Read in one car ride home.

I didn’t get to three books on my orginal list: China, To Me, House on the Lagoon, and, Art and Madness. I forgot to pack them and ended up finding Persepolis and Friday the Rabbi Slept Late at home.

May was also the month for crazy travel. I slept no more than two nights at a time in Bolton, Concord, Boston, Chicopee, Peaks Island, Rockland and Monhegan all in eleven days time. I took two boats, one bus and three different cars. Walked over 75 miles. Saw family. Saw friends. Breathed in the woods. Inhaled the ocean. I enjoyed every second of it.

Catfish and Mandala

Pham, Andrew X. Catfish and Mandala: a Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam. New York: Farrar. Straus and Giroux, 1999.

It has been several years since I read a bicycle memoir (the last being Where the Pavement Ends by Erika Warmbrunn). I was very excited to start Catfish and Mandala. So much so that I started it two days before May began. Even though May is Bicycle Month I read this for Memorial Day. I’m glad I went that route because it’s not really about the bike.

Catfish and Mandala is more than an adventure story about biking across Vietnam. It’s a cultural exploration and by turn, an explanation. Comparing American versus Vietnamese differing viewpoints on mundane topics like when a child should move out of his parent’s home after reaching adulthood. And yet. Noticing similarities: we all want our fathers to be proud of us, in any culture.
The story of Pham’s father’s imprisonment in the Labor Camp is brief, but heartbreaking just the same. After reading pages 16-20 I will never look at catfish the same.
Pham’s ability to weave past with present is brilliant. He recaptures his family’s flight from Vietnam to the U.S. when he was a small child seamlessly while recounting his own journey from the U.S. back to Vietnam as an adult. His confusion over what he remembers is intertwined with his inability to articulate what he is really looking for. Pham finds himself asking “what am I doing here?” time and time again. As he faces prejudice and violence and corruption I asked the same question.

Favorite lines: “Somehow they got by on love and rice” (p 17),” Everything could shift, and nothing could change” (p 107), “I have an urge to kick myself in the head” (p 158), and “A stray mutt curls up at my feet and shares his fleas with my ankles” (p 200).

Author Fact: I have to start of by flirting. Pham is a good looking guy! My next fact is actually a question – how can you be a “starving” restaurant critic?
Book Trivia: Catfish and Mandala is Pham’s first book.

Things that need further explanation: what, exactly, are “angry egg-eyes”, and what do they look like? Pham mentions five different types of bananas. Now I want to know their names and characteristics.

Pham mentions Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage. I’m so excited it’s actually on my list. Sad to say I won’t be reading it until probably May 2016 though!

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Bicycling” (p 36). Simple enough.

ps~ I enjoyed Catfish and Mandala so much that I added Pham as a favorite author on LibraryThing.

May 2011 is…


  • To Sir with Love by Edward Ricardo Braithwaite ~ in honor of National Teacher Day (May 3rd)
  • Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann ~ in honor of Brockmann’s birth month
  • A Child’s Life and Other Stories by Phoebe Gloeckner ~ in honor of graphic novel month
  • Antigone the play by Sophocles ~ in honor of May being the best time to visit Greece.
  • Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong ~ in honor Asian-American Heritage month
  • Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham ~ in honor of Memorial Day
  • Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery ~ in honor of Eeyore’s birth month (I’ll explain that connection within the review). I’m listening to this as a training book.
  • House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferre ~ in honor of May 5th being Cinco de Mayo
  • City of Light ~ by Lauren Belfer ~ in honor of May being History Month

Lastly, for the Early Review program for LibraryThing – Art and Madness by Anne Roiphe.

I put so many books on my list because a) a few of them are really, really short so I know I can read I can read them in 1-2 days time and b) I don’t have plans to travel anywhere until May 20th so I should have more time to curl up with several good books, and c) AFTER the walk I have ten days of NOTHING to do. I am picturing myself on the back deck, a glass of wine in one hand and a good book in another.

Confession – Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham looked so good I started reading it on April 28th. Sue me.
May is also (finally) the Just ‘Cause walk. I am not confident I did everything to train (but then again, there is only so much walking one can do), and I know I didn’t fund raise as hard as I should/could have. I am $100 off from the amount I raised last year. I am guessing not asking aunts, uncles, cousins, (mother), grandparents….anyone from my mother’s side to donate played a big part. C’est la vie. Or, to quote mom, “whatever.”

March ’10 was…

When I sat down to first write “March ’10 was…” I suddenly became exhausted by the very idea of it. Not sure why. Could it be that 300+ books later and I am finally losing steam? Am I becoming weary of the process? I wasn’t not sure. This recap was designed to keep myself accountable to the “Fill-in-the-blank Is…” post. Something to check back in with, designed to ask myself, “How does what I really read by the end of the month compare to what I set out to accomplish at the beginning of the month?” Truth be known, it has been fun to see how far off the map my reading has taken me. Titles that were so far off my radar are a joy to remember at month’s end. So, in answer to my own questions – no I don’t think I’m burnt out, losing steam, becoming weary of the process. I think I needed to put it back into perspective…kind of like hiking up that bra strap that has slipped out of place…

  • Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban ~ turtles and strange relationships. What’s not to love?
  • Goodnight, Nebraska by Tom McNeal ~ this should have been a movie
  • Jennifer Government by ~ this will be a movie, I swear
  • Making of a Quagmire by David Halberstam ~ one reporter’s take on the political firestorm and other events that led up to the Vietnam war and beyond…
  • An Armful of Warm Girl by William M. Spackman~this was so bizarre…
  • King Lear by William Shakespeare ~ classic.
  • The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings ~ in honor of Florida becoming a state in the month of March

Here’s something really cool. I started reading Affliction by Russell Banks because it was on my March list (Russell Banks’s birth month) but it’s also on my April list. That means I can continue reading  Affliction in April…That doesn’t happen that often.

For LibraryThing and the Early Review Program I was able to finish two books:

  • No Instructions Needed: An American Boyhood in the 1950s by Robert Hewitt, and
  • The Man From Saigon by Marti Leimbach.

Just a note on The Man From Saigon ~ It was very interesting to read this at the same time as reading a nonfiction about the same topic.

March was also a month of healing, getting sick again, seeing good, good drums, the weather getting warmer…and lots of training walks!

Making of a Quagmire

Halberstam, David. The Making of a Quagmire. New York: Random House, 1964.

The only way American citizens were in touch with the Vietnam War, at all, was through the eyes of reporters. They were responsible for bringing the fighting as well as the politics of South Vietnam into the forefront of public awareness. They were credited for keeping the public more informed than in the dark. It has been said that not many could cite what we were fighting for “in the jungle.” Not many more could find Vietnam on a map. Yet, with the publishing of the Making of a Quagmire David Halberstam sets up to explain just how involved the U.S. was before the conflict erupted. In a comprehensive manner he explains our country’s commitment to the political struggle in South Vietnam. Despite pressure on all political sides Halberstam never compromised his view of the crisis. He refused to publish propaganda to support either side. The Making of a Quagmire is simply unflinching and honest.

Most interesting quote: “In many areas the war had come to a virtual halt because vital units were practicing for the parade” (p 45). I find this interesting because Halberstam goes on to say, “It seemed unbelievable, but it was true; the public was not to be allowed to watch the ceremonies” (p 46).

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter simply called, “Vietnam” (p 238). Also in More Book Lust in the chapter called, “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112). Interestingly enough in both chapters Nancy Pearl gives Halberstam’s book the complete title of  The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam During the Kennedy Era yet nowhere on my copy of  Making of a Quagmire is that subtitle printed.

Man From Saigon

Leimbach, Marti. The Man From Saigon. New York: Doubleday, 2010.

This was an interesting read for me due, in part, to the fact I was reading The Making of a Quagmire by David Halberstam at the same time. Leimbach’s descriptions of Vietnam mirrored Halberstam’s almost perfectly. The rainy, muggy climate, the poverty stricken communities, the brash (trying-to-be-brave) military presence, but above all, the reporters trying to capture the atrocities of politics and war while remaining mentally sound and physically safe. Of course, Leimbach’s story is a bit less intense with the addition of an adulterous romance threaded through the bomb blasts and sniper attacks. Susan Gifford is a green reporter trying her hand at covering the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. When she is taken captive by the Vietnam Communists, the Vietcong, along with her photographer, Hoang Van Son, the plot thickens. Susan is suddenly confronted with a profound and deep relationship that was originally a professional partnership forged out of necessity.

There are, of course, a few lines that became my favorite. The one I hope makes it into the final copy is “It was a feeling of being trapped and desperate, of having been cornered by her own mistakes” (p 6). Been there. Done that.