The Moral Life of Soldiers

Jerome Gold. Black Heron (Midpoint, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (269p) ISBN 978-1-936364-02-2
This introspective but imbalanced collection, made up of four stories, a novella, and a short novel, comes from Gold (Sergeant Dickinson), who served in Vietnam with the special forces. The novella, “Paul’s Father,” introduces Paul Donaldson, who appears throughout the collection. During the 1950s, Paul’s father Herb moves his family from Chicago to segregated Georgia. After trying to buy a car for his black cook, Herb is run out of town. The family relocates to California and Paul never forgives his father for refusing to stand up for himself, setting the stage for the rest of the collection. The short story quartet fleshes out Paul’s adolescence in the California desert, where he gets into fights with a motorcycle gang and falls in love for the first time. In the eponymous short novel, an unnamed Vietnamese army veteran writes his memoir, relating, in a detached voice, how he entered South Vietnam’s military and, through the officers exchange program, befriended Paul in Panama before he shipped off to Vietnam. Returning home, the officer joined the National Liberation Front, taking up arms against his old American army pals. Concerned with the “moral ambiguity” of soldiers, the collection delves into the muddled experiences and allegiances of life during wartime. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/17/2012
Release date: 02/01/2013
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