cover image Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide, and the Lessons of War

Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide, and the Lessons of War

Penny Coleman, . . Beacon, $23.95 (223pp) ISBN 978-0-8070-5040-8

In this tautly argued study of the link between war-induced post-traumatic stress and suicide, Coleman writes, "It is only recently that I have begun to think of myself as a Vietnam War widow." Coleman's first husband, a fellow photographer and Vietnam veteran, killed himself. "He was hurt in ways I couldn't fix," the author writes, solemnly reflecting on the years she spent blaming him, and then herself. Coleman (Village Elders ) expresses dismay at the inadequacies of her generation's and the military's attitude toward its traumatized men. Gathering stark personal testimonies from other similarly bereaved wives, mothers and daughters, she chillingly reveals the hidden cost of war. Further, with force and conviction, she shows how the U.S. military has systematically denied and cynically managed the psychic impact of war on its soldiers, from early experiments with postwar rehabilitation to frontal lobotomies. She profiles psychiatrists, setting their research and innovations in the necessarily limiting context of the military's goals. With searing insights, Coleman also discusses the social engineering involved in the Vietnam era draft and its notions, both implicit and explicit, of "disposable" men. This passionately felt book poses more questions than it can answer, but it will surely generate further attention to a sadly timely subject. (May)