There are historical references, many of which I remember in real-time. The old understood fact, that society is forgetful, certainly has me reeling. I had also forgotten those events.
Forgetting is necessary in order to carry on after atrocities. But when we forget, do we place understanding in the hands of historians? Then again, there are some things, like the recent tragedy in a Connecticut school, that can never be understood. It will never be known how many people were wounded…scarred forever, and the lack of understanding of such events fester forever in our subconsciousness. Never Solved…Never Resolved…EVER.
So what do we do? We wait. Time doesn’t ever heal anything. It just allows for those scarred individuals to, one day, all turn to dust and, with them, the direct, hurtfulness of the unimaginable.
This book returns us to the time of the Vietnam War through the life of John Wade. It reintroduced atrocities that have yet, in 2013, to become dust. It skillfully asks the question, How can we forget? It produces characters that are directly and indirectly victims of things that they don’t understand. Most of those things, they don’t want to understand but the effects are real enough to destroy their lives. The horrific ripples are toxic and live on and keep destroying as if the horrors faced are living beasts attached by an umbilical to the witnesses.
Tim O’Brien obviously was/is one of those scarred by the war. He makes a case for living beyond personal nightmares, especially when they are the only ones faced in a lifetime. But John Wade has endured a piling on of nightmares. His hauntings intermingle and grow larger and fiercer with every attempt he makes to forget them. Not having answers, as an adult, is troubling. Needing answers, as a child, can leave a person hopelessly lost.
I couldn’t put this down. I was a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. Some might say, the ending asks more questions than it gives answers. I believe this book was about the gray area between what is real and what we cannot understand. It certainly made me feel powerless to ever make things right. Happiness is an illusion after tragedy and the best survivors are merely “magicians”.