PURPLE SUN

Reviewed by Joni Bour


The author tells you in big letters on the back cover that this is a work of Fiction. I donít really think it is. Of course the characters are invented and the actual events may not have happened, but the struggles these men face, the heart breaking toll their burdens take on them, is not made up. We have all read plenty of stories that did seem made up and imaginary, havenít we? This book feels like it might just have happened; it feels real. You could actually believe that you may have just met PT Gallo the disheveled writer somewhere before. And once you have read about Isaiah Ross, you will feel sure you have seen that same long look in other veteransí eyes. You can barely even think about Private Kern without shaking your head and feeling your shoulders sag a little. They donít seem invented. Perhaps this is partly due to the authorís own personal history. He does not reveal much about his past other than the fact that he served in the Marine Corp first as a soldier and then later in Vietnam as a chaplain. The story may not have happened exactly the way it has been laid out, but there are still little ties of truth that bind this tale together.

It might have been helpful if Mr. McAuliffe would have placed a statement on the back of his book that warns you to clear your schedule, order pizza and get your comfy robe, because everything in your life will suffer a delay until you are done reading. Distracted by what was going to happen next, I baked chicken that even the dog wouldnít eat, talked my husband into folding the laundry and later fell asleep with the book in my hand only to wake up after the book slipped from my hand and hit me in the eye. Even after I finished the book, I carried the story around in my head for a while just wondering what finally happened to Isaiah and Gallo. I had to remind myself; nothing really happened after that- they werenít real after all.

I am sure you will figure out early in the novel the basic who, what, why, when and where, but how the author gets you there is the real beauty of the book. He leads you down roads that twist and turn in the same way life has a habit of doing, sometimes going to places unexpected and other times at first seeming to go nowhere at all. He allows you to see into the lives of two men who had nothing, and yet somehow everything, in common. This book embraces the intangibles that its characters spent the better part of their lives trying to avoid, but were inexplicably tangled in. If we, the readers, were being honest, I think most could admit that we have all avoided troubles that were as plain as the nose on our faces to everyone but us. We might even say we have sometimes felt connected to someone or something we could not understand, or compelled to do something we felt powerless to avoid. Truth is, we all want to believe there is a connection to something bigger and more complex than ourselves and that maybe somewhere, somehow, a circle will be completed and that wrongs can be righted. It isnít wrong to believe we are being steered in the right direction even when we are sure we do not know where we are going. That is why this is such a perfect book, even if it is not real. For at least in ďPurple SunĒ, everything turns out the way it had been ordained. There is a plan, and there is no randomness. In the end, the circle is complete; the restless found peace and the guilty found absolution. It does not get any better than that. And I would never ask for more, unless we could do that on a grand scale for a whole lot more real veterans who deserve much better than they have ever gotten.


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Posted 4/18/04