Thursday, June 12, 2008

Vietnam War and MRS. LIEUTENANT – Part II

As explained in the introduction to Part I, the following Amazon review was written by Diana Faillace Von Behren (“reneofc”), an Amazon Top 500 reviewer, and posted here with her permission.

In this, her first Sharon Gold novel, Miller addresses the concerns of this era in American history. Written perhaps as a part memoir Miller was herself a `Mrs. Lieutenant' the story is cleverly crafted from the viewpoints of four very different young officers' wives whose lives intersect at Fort Knox in Kentucky during their husbands' AOB training.

Choosing from America's vast melting pot of ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, Miller selects wisely, yet not stereotypically, succeeding in exemplifying that no matter how diverse or varied all women carry similar burdens that formulate their personal definition of `dread.'

As the northern Jewish girl, Sharon comes close to that which I am most familiar. Sharon has guts; she questions; she holds firm to her belief system yet remains fiercely loyal to family and friends even though their sensibilities may vary from hers. Her strength is tangible and it changes those around her.

Pretty head-turning blonde Kim hails from the South--orphaned as a child and broken by the indifference of a series of foster parents, she clings to the security given to her by her jealous husband who cannot stand the thought of any other man looking at her.

Wendy, a black girl from South Carolina, sheltered by her parents, knows nothing of the rampant prejudice encapsulated within the societal microcosm of Fort Knox. Seeking nothing but acceptance, she cringes when her husband decides to go regular Army instead of `indef vol' like most of his classmates.

Attractive Latino Donna loves her blonde haired blue-eyed husband dearly, but for her, too, the very word `Vietnam' wreaks havoc in her soul, connoting nothing but death, destruction and possible widowhood. The hopes and aspirations of all four women create a semblance of the `every-woman' of that time.

For each of them, the idea of Hell and Vietnam becomes synonymous.

Miller uses an alternating third person voice to delineate her chapters and to flesh out each of the women and their motivations. As each of the women enters `her own private Vietnam', the reader journeys back to that time period, empathizing with the plight of these couples while experiencing a more comprehensive slice of American life from the varying perspectives.

Miller's use of popular songs and clothing labels from the early 70s titillated this reader again I haven't thought about many of these iconic items for years. Ms. Miller, I thank you not only for the compelling story, but also for refreshing my memory.

Bottom line? Phyllis Zimbler Miller has fashioned her own remembrance of things past in her novel, "Mrs. Lieutenant." Her main characters sing out against the things that disturb them most about life in the early 70s while trying to adjust to being the wives of new second lieutenants and come to terms with their individual desires. As a one time `Mrs. Lieutenant,' Miller's voice rings true in each of her incarnations. The pages fly by in this introspective novel of friendship told beneath the cloud of Vietnam.

Recommended, especially to those children of the 60s and early 70s. For me, this author made this era shake off the dust of the past and again become a viable entity one that rumbled with turbulence and defined those dark specters of dread that remain with us till this day.

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1 comment:

reneofc said...

Thanks Phyllis for allowing me to express myself on your page. Its funny how easy it is to pinpoint the origins of a feeling like the dread that all of your fictional women experienced and an entire generation understood no matter what your thought about the war were.
When I was in college, I dated a guy who had served in Vietnam. Whenever he heard the fire department siren -- I went to school in New York--he would literally hit the dirt. His heart would beat fast and he had trouble realizing that he was no longer there but safe and on friendly ground. He and countless others formulated a group on campus called the 'Vets' all older than the rest of us as their dreams had been put on hold for at least four years. They were different from the rest of us--gritty, almost grim. All of them wore their green fatigue jackets to class with their names blazing over the front pocket. Amidst all the controversy, these men wanted to shout out that they had been there and they didn't want to hear yea or nay about it.
Then there were the other guys who had low draft numbers and had joined ROTC. I can't tell you how many ROTC parades I went to just to support these classmates of mine. I never knew what happened to some of these friends. I do know that this was around the time that Nixon resigned and many must have just breathed a great sigh of relief.