St. Martin’s Press
A tragic accident takes away the very heart of Fletcher Carson, his wife and daughter. After their deaths he tries but finds he just can’t cope with living without them, after a failed attempt at ending it all he decides to try suicide by war. It’s late 1972 and the war in Vietnam is almost over, we’re loosing more and more boys everyday and many question the cost of their sacrifice, here at home we protest daily and treat our home bound soldiers not with fanfare but with barbs and shouts, but in the field orders must still be followed and that’s where we find Fletcher. While on patrol his platoon finds an injured Labrador retriever, the Lieutenant orders him shot, but Fletcher won’t have it. The dog is ultimately taken back to base where he becomes much more than a pet, but an invaluable asset protecting the men out on patrol. Then the news comes the war is over, there is cheering and celebration until the final edict is announced, one that will change forever the lives of a few good men and one brave dog.
Gareth Crocker made me relive my youth and not all pleasant memories. I remember being in high school in the early 70’s hearing horror stories of big brother’s, uncles’ and sometimes father’s of my classmates coming home from war, but not completely as they were never the same again, and then there were the stories of the ones that never came back. But the one thing I didn’t know about was the fate of the thousands of war dogs in which only a fraction came home, most were euthanized and some were left to their own devices when the US pulled out of Vietnam.
This is the fictional tale of one of the lucky ones, a tale that will make you laugh and make you cry, but it’s a tale that had to be told, it’s an important lesson to learn and Mr. Crocker does a wonderful job of telling it. He tells it, not in prose and flowery dialogue, but in a narrative that takes you into the jungles, on the bases and into the minds of the men who were there. He gives us colorful characters that he builds up and then takes away from us, not because he’s cruel but because that’s the way it was and he gives us characters that survive, that sacrificed and made it through and those are the characters that will stay with you long after the novel ends. This is a love story about a boy and a dog, it’s a second coming of age story of someone who lost his way and found it again at the end of a leash. It’s about camaraderie and deep friendship, about doing the right thing, it’s about fate and it’s ultimately about faith in the face of terror and destruction.
Is this an easy book to read, no. You will cry a few tears. Is it worth those tears, definitely. All in all this is a feel good book, even though you have to wade through some pain. It’s a novel for all ages, for all walks of life, it’s a testament to those who give voice to those who have none to those who do the right thing.