Charlie and the Children

Joanna Scott, Author Black Heron Press $22.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-930773-46-5
Individual responsibility is the central theme of this earnest allegorical tale of a young American who recalls the events leading to his capture and imprisonment during the Vietnamese war. Scott's parable of modern negligence presents the brutality of war in a narrative voice that is almost childlike in its deliberate simplicity. A down-home boy from Texas, Charlie gets his draft notice on the day of his law school graduation and weds beautiful, sophisticated Pauline just before leaving for Vietnam. After several months of service, he rescues a Vietnamese woman named Minh during a bomb explosion, soon begins to question his superficial relationship with Pauline and is maneuvered into marrying Minh. Disassociated from the Vietnamese culture, however, Charlie becomes estranged from Minh after the birth of their son. His subsequent capture by two young boys is the beginning of a process of enlightenment, especially as he begins to feel a bond with one of them and understands for the first time his irresponsibility in fathering a son. This relationship is too coincidental to be convincing, as is Charlie's process of reevaluation during his confinement. More problematic is Scott's attempt to inject humor into her narrative through whimsical turns of phrase that ill accompany Charlie's naive actions. Eventually, this deliberate contradiction of content and style (including artless chapter titles) creates a disconnection between Charlie's simplicity and the atrocities and torments he observes and experiences. (Mar.) FYI: Scott's previous work of nonfiction, Indochina's Refugees: Oral Histories from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, brought her into contact with an Amerasian boy whose father abandoned him in Vietnam. This novel is a fictionalized sketch of what might have occurred.
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/2010
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