For decades, Della Brown has tried to forget her service as a US Army nurse in Vietnam. But when she receives a letter from a fellow combat nurse, once her closest friend, all the memories come flooding back: Della's nightmarish introduction to the Twelfth Evacuation Hospital, where every bed held a patient hideously wounded in ways never mentioned in nursing school. The day she learned how to tell young men they were about to die. The night her chopper pilot boyfriend failed to return from his mission. She must also confront the fissures in her family life, the mystery of her father's disappearance, the things mothers and daughters cannot - maybe should not - know about one another, and the lifelong repercussions of a single mistake. An unflinching depiction of war and its personal costs, Her Own Vietnam, is also a portrait of a woman in midlife - a mother, a nurse, and long ago, a soldier.
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Great Characters, Great Story, Great Listen
This book works on so many levels. The characters are believable and drawn with all the contradictions and flaws we humans have. The dynamics between characters--especially the way family members interact--really ring true. It's also a well-written book with some nice turns of phrase and some cool and unexpected metaphors. Plus, before Her Own Vietnam, I'd not really given much thought to the experience of nurses in Vietnam or the fact that they'd have less support back home for dealing with the trauma they'd faced. It's an important story and one that is told really well.
The story did a good job moving back and forth between the present day and the war, and all the plot points made sense without being predictable. The pacing was good, too. I never felt like it was just dragging on and on.
The first two scenes that come to mind might be considered spoilers, so I'll go for the "not as ordered" care package delivered to Della in Vietnam because of the specific responses she and her friends had. I also like how that scene has ripples into the future.
We spend most of our time with Della, and I really like seeing how her character transforms in the past and in the present day, so it's probably her. But Charlene is drawn so well that she either ties with Della or is a close second. By the end, it was difficult to remember these weren't living, breathing women.
Not only did Lynn Kanter do a wonderful job writing the novel, but Robin Miles also provided fantastic narration. Each of the characters was so distinct that, in the end, I had to remind myself that there had only been one narrator. I'm really looking forward to reading whatever Kanter writes next!
Our Vietnam too....