Minimal Damage: Stories of Veterans

H. Lee Barnes, Author
H. Lee Barnes, Author . Univ. of Nevada $24.95 (184p) ISBN 978-0-87417-721-3
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War shows its human face in former Green Beret Barnes's mostly successful collection about veterans of Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Mogadishu and Iraq trying to get on with their civilian lives after experiencing the horrors of battle. In “Punishment,” a former army medic, counting down his last hours on death row (he killed a policeman), relives the time he saved the life of an enemy soldier during the Panama invasion. In the title story, a black Desert Storm veteran finds his ordinary existence turned upside down when the victims of a serial killer are found buried around his house. And in the novella, “Snake Boy,” a heroin-addicted, homeless Vietnam vet is kidnapped by a snake-handling evangelist who cures the vet of his addiction and forces him to join his traveling show. In several of the stories, the veteran angle seems peripheral, but the strongest pieces exemplify the words of one character who tells his daughter that “all we can do is invent myths to smooth the harshness.” The lives on display here do just that in stories told with understated compassion and unexpected flashes of humor. (Sept.)

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