For former Marine Norman, the Corps is a brotherhood that instills a strong sense of clan in its members. So, 16 years after a Viet Cong ambush on a bridge, he set out to track down 11 survivors of his platoon. One motive behind his quest was a desire to find out whether, as a 20-year-old radio commander, he left a man to die on that fatal day in 1968. His search brought absolution and a renewal of bonds of comradeship. Each ex-buddy had changed in a different way. One, an insurance executive, turned his wartime experiences into an ``incessant monologue,'' a ``series of comic skits.'' Another, a supervisor in a maximum-security prison infirmary, suffered an emotional breakdown just before freelance reporter Norman caught up with him. Told in simple, lean prose, this wistful Vietnam memoir is both personal catharsis and meditation on the anger, grief and loss caused by war. (Mar.)
Former Marine Norman was not at a bloody ambush at a bridge over the Quang Tri River because he had taken over another duty, but the other members of his squad were, and they were riddled with bullets and shrapnel. The ones who survived were contacted by him 18 years later to see how they had fared after their combat experience, and they show how resilient the human spirit can be. Those wounded were now dealing with their lives as handicapped, and the untouched physically, like Norman himself, were reliving the guilt and pain daily. Norman's account of his journey to rebuild friendships with his squad mates is powerful,touching and knowing, and filled with personalities more deftly sketched than those in many novels. It is also as solid a document as reader's will find describing the human debris of war, and the strength of character of its survivors. Good work.-- Mel D. Lane, Sacramento, Cal.