Wandering Souls: Journeys With the Dead and the Living in Viet Nam

Wandering Souls: Journeys With the Dead and the Living in Viet Nam

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by Wayne Karlin
     
 

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On March 19, 1969, First Lieutenant Homer R. Steedly, Jr., shot and killed a North Vietnamese soldier, Dam, when they met on a jungle trail. Steedly took a diary—filled with beautiful line drawings—from the body of the dead soldier, which he subsequently sent to his mother for safekeeping. Thirty-five years later, Steedly rediscovers the forgotten dairy and

Overview

On March 19, 1969, First Lieutenant Homer R. Steedly, Jr., shot and killed a North Vietnamese soldier, Dam, when they met on a jungle trail. Steedly took a diary—filled with beautiful line drawings—from the body of the dead soldier, which he subsequently sent to his mother for safekeeping. Thirty-five years later, Steedly rediscovers the forgotten dairy and begins to confront his suppressed memories of the war that defined his life, deciding to return to Viet Nam and meet the family of the man he killed to seek their forgiveness.

Fellow veteran and award-winning author Wayne Karlin accompanied Steedly on his remarkable journey. In Wandering Souls he recounts Homer’s movement towards a recovery that could only come about through a confrontation with the ghosts of his past—and the need of Dam’s family to bring their child’s “wandering soul” to his own peace.

Wandering Souls limns the terrible price of war on soldiers and their loved ones, and reveals that we heal not by forgetting war’s hard lessons, but by remembering its costs.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In 1969, Lt. Homer Steedly surprised a North Vietnamese soldier, Hoang Ngoc Dam, on a forest trail, and killed him. Steedly checked the body and took a handful of personal papers, which he later reclaimed from Intelligence. It was the first time he'd personally killed anyone, although he was a seasoned combat veteran by then, on his second tour. Forty years later, Steedly's friend, author Karlin (English, Coll. of Southern Maryland; Marble Mountain: A Novel), a fellow Vietnam vet, facilitated Steedly's visit to Vietnam to return the mementoes to Dam's survivors. With the help of a famous local medium, and with Karlin and Steedly in train, Dam's family located his grave and returned his bones to his village. The first half of the book tells of Steedly's and Dam's early lives and war experiences; the second of the trip back and the lessons that Karlin wishes us to learn. VERDICT It's not always clear what here is biography, autobiography, or poetical rendering of emotional life, but libraries having substantial military collections will be interested in the rather lyrical depiction of posttraumatic stress disorder, the aftereffects of war, and the mechanisms of forgiveness and redemption.—Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS\
Kirkus Reviews
A surprisingly moving account of a Vietnam War veteran who returned to face the family of the man he killed. Meeting Hoang Ngoc Dam by accident on a jungle trail in 1969, Lt. Homer Steedly shot the Vietnamese soldier from about 30 feet away. Searching his body, Steedly discovered a journal, which he sent home to lay in his mother's attic for 35 years. Fellow Vietnam vet Karlin (Literature/Univ. of Southern Maryland; Marble Mountain, 2009, etc.) presents a dual biography of the two men, their fatal encounter and the subsequent journey of reconciliation. Readers will likely expect Dam's impoverished background, but Steedly's hardscrabble youth in rural South Carolina is a surprise. Using his superb shooting and tracking skills to provide food for his family, he also demonstrated above-average leadership abilities, which allowed him to enter officer candidate school soon after he signed up in 1966. Dam left his village after enlisting in 1963 and never returned, working as a medic, filling his journal with medical drawings and planning to attend medical school. Karlin draws a vivid, gruesome portrait of Steedly's 1969-70 campaign in the central highlands. The officer killed many men, but Dam was the only one he encountered face-to-face. The image preyed on him and formed part of his post-traumatic stress disorder, which kept him isolated and introverted until middle age when he married and began addressing his memories. In 2008, he returned to retrace his steps, meet the family and participate in the ceremony in which Dam's remains were brought home. Despite the reconciliation, the book is a poignant reminder of the war's sad consequences for both sides. Agent: Phyllis Westberg/Harold OberAssociates

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781568586106
Publisher:
Nation Books
Publication date:
09/29/2009
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
376
Sales rank:
777,763
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Wayne Karlin is the author of numerous books, including Lost Armies, The Wished-For Country, and Rumors and Stones. In 2005, he received an Excellence in the Arts Award from the Vietnam Veterans of America. Karlin lives in Maryland, where he teaches at the College of Southern Maryland.

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Wandering Souls: Journeys With the Dead and the Living in Viet Nam 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Roman numerals! Finally! Wow! You are really helpfull.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is very old and run-down. It was a hospital for Confederate soliders during the Battle of Gettysburg. Chills run down the wimpiest of you's spines as a ghostly howl emits from the building, and a cold breeze blows past you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago