A VOICE OF HOPE

Reviewed by Joni Bour


What a great book! Itís not a long book, which added to reasons why I chose to read it yesterday. I read the entire thing, before breakfast, during breakfast, took a break, read it while my husband drove us to the mall and finally finished it between commercials while watching TV. I liked every single thing about this book, including the stuff that kept it from getting published the first time. I read somewhere that the first publisher refused to publish it without a lot of changes because there were many grammatical errors and typos. That turns out to be their loss. I can also be a big critic of writing errors, when appropriate. If a writer is going to go to the effort to write a book that untold numbers of people will read, they need to hire an editor, right? Maybe that is generally correct, but in this case, none of the usual stuff matters. I donít know if Mr. Flynn just didnít care what other people thought, which I doubt, or if he was brilliant and stubborn, which I choose to believe. But this book is perfect just the way it is, because his story rings clear like the sound of the Liberty Bell; Like the rooster that crows in the morning and the rain pounds down on a tin roof. You donít question those things. You can see them and hear them, so you know they are real. When you read this book, you will know the same is true about this story. Starting from this book forward, I will now turn my nose up at the critic who judges a book on its lack of capital letters or missing commas before they honor the writer for his truth and bravery. When exactly did it happen that the true value of a story could be based on whether the writer knew how to emphasize his point with punctuation? When you read this book, you will know where the emphasis lies, and you would know that even if the words were in italics, if they were purple or if they were all in quotes and capital letters.

Mr. Flynn was one of the first Marines to participate in a CAC- Combined Action Company - during the Vietnam War. The idea was to somewhat integrate with the Vietnamese people in order to gain their trust and friendship and ultimately military intelligence that would help us find the bad guys. It sounds good, and at times it was probably very good, because the Vietnamese were helped with schools and sanitation and protection from the Viet Cong. But it was also an extremely dangerous assignment. CAC soldiers lived near a village and survived mostly on their own. It was a small compound that was flooded when it rained and was overrun several times by the Viet Cong. On one such occasion, Mr. Flynn was severely wounded in the face, neck and thigh. He spent weeks in several hospitals and then a hospital ship with his jaw wired shut, before being mistakenly sent back to the war. He was given a choice; he could work in the rear or go back to his CAC squad. He was either a little nuts, or little bit more brave than most of us, because he chose to return to his squad. I admire him for that, no matter the reason that drove him.

It was a hard thing for him to go back. He felt a little cheated I think. He should have gone home given the injuries he suffered. Then once back with the men he had served with for so long, he could barely sleep at night, having continuous nightmares and flashbacks of the night they were overrun. He moves on to another squad in the same area, hoping a change in scenery will clear his memories and it does. The rest of the book details little events in a year in the life of Thomas Flynn gone to war. I could tell you the rest, but then I would cheat Mr. Flynn out of telling his story and cheat you out of a good read. And he tells the story better than I could. So I will stop at that. Go buy the book. This book is high on my list and anyone at almost any age or reading level could appreciate its sincerity, humor and straightforwardness. It speaks of war and all its anger, bitterness and heartbreak, but it also speaks of loyalty, bravery and honesty. When you finish this book, you will have little doubt about the things that happened, but it isnít because he slapped you in the face on every page with guts and gore and graphic descriptions. He didnít need to do that to tell the story. I would let my 12 year-old daughter read this book without any hesitation. He swears a little, but then I would have to admit there are times when there is no substitute for certain well-placed and strongly articulated words. Read the book and see it for what it really is. It is so much more than a typo here or a lost comma there. These are the memories of a survivor and a true American. A Voice Of Hope is history the way it happened, not all glory not all bad guys or all good guys, but truth simply told and handed down from one generation to the next.


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Posted 1/26/04