While reading this book, I thought about my dad. No, he was not in Vietnam, but he was a soldier and this book is full of testosterone and war. (There is not a single woman character until the end but I loved it!!) I told him I was reading a Vietnam novel and asked if he liked to read soldier/war/Vietnam books. My dad said they can get a bit wild, that there was often too much drug use in them.
Fletcher is still reeling from the loss of his wife and daughter and goes to Vietnam with a death wish.
Jack is a lab. There's a lot of drama surrounding the finding and rescue of Jack. I didn't realize until reading this book that dogs played such a large role in the Vietnam war. They were able to sniff out traps, aid in rescues, and provide moral support. Jack does all the above and then some as he walks by Fletcher's side.
But....When the war is declared over, some 4000 dogs that have aided the soldiers, saved lives and risked their own, and braved the war are declared "surplus military equipment." Jack is about to be abandoned and Fletcher knows "that just as he had lost his wife and daughter, he was on the brink of losing Jack. He knew that if that happened, then he, too, would be lost."
The last quarter is another adventure as Fletcher and Jack hike for approximately a month thru Vietnam and Laos, struggling to reach Thailand in hopes that the American friendly country can help them get home, both of them. There's hungry tigers, more soldiers, and once again, Jack proves he's more than "just a dog."
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the soldiers' POV about the war and the situations they faced everyday. I enjoyed the bonding, jesting, ribbing, and grief the men shared. I actually came to know and like each one of the men and found myself mourning the losses just as though I was in the novel. I found myself growing teary eyed as the men sang Amazing Grace over a dead comrade in a helicopter. I was moved. And of course, I loved Jack.
I also liked reading about Fletcher's conflicting emotions about the killing he was performing. There's one situation in which he really questions what he is doing.. when he must follow orders but doesn't feel good about what he is doing. I found this thought evoking. Sometimes, a soldier's duty to country conflicts with his duty to humanity.
Laugh out loud quote from one of the soldiers: "You know, for some time now, I've been seriously contemplating sticking my boot--laced or otherwise--up your ass. But I can't figure out which end it is."
Note to readers: Have a tissue handy.
I got this ARC from the publisher and all pictures are from the U.S. National Archives.