This novel is a testament to the heroes of the Vietnam War and an eye-opening experience for readers. Our story opens in 1971 in Virginia, with childhood sweethearts Nettie and Andy saying goodbye as he is deployed to South Vietnam and she begins her nursing duties as an intern-in-training. Chapters alternate between Nettie and Andy as they both face daily struggles; for Nettie, harassment by a vindictive nursing supervisor, and for Andy guerrilla warfare. Their individual integrity and strength of character, immersive settings, and distinctive medical and military vocabulary make this an engrossing read.
In this brutal war, Andy and his cohesive squad are not only subject to Vietcong fire, ambushes, foot traps and trip wires attached to grenades; they also battle the unforgiving jungle’s bot flies, red ants, poisonous snakes, leeches and ankle-deep mud as they perform deep cover reconnaissance patrols near the DMZ (demilitarized zone). The plot turns action-adventure when they’re sent on a high-risk mission. Nettie’s sensitivity and compassion for an elderly heart patient, William Pepper, assisting him build a healing garden at the hospital, and the description of Vietnamese women placing tea in lotus flowers at sunset all add to the beauty and poignancy of this engaging story. We come away not only caring about the characters but also having gained a new understanding of the conflict in Southeast Asia. Highly recommended.