IN THE SUMMER OF 1969 elements of the 101st Airborne went back to the A Shau Valley in South Vietnam. IN THE SUMMER OF 1864 the 10th Vermont, part of General Ricketts’ Third Division, marched into the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. SAM KENSINGTON WAS AT BOTH CAMPAIGNS.
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About the Author
Don Meyer is a writer and speaker. He is the author of six books, including Jennifer’s Plan, Winter Ghost, McKenzie Affair, Uncle Denny, The American War, and the Vietnam War memoir The Protected Will Never Know.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The American War based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Award-Winning Vietnam War Novel Has Supernatural Twist First let me say that I’m not one usually to read war novels, but a novel that alternates between scenes in the Vietnam War and the Civil War made me curious. And so did the description of The American War on the book’s jacket: “Imagine having been an infantry soldier in one of the helicopters being lifted back into the A Shau Valley... or imagine having been a Union blue coat soldier, marching en echelon into the Shenandoah Valley... now imagine having been that soldier in both campaigns.” Being a veteran reader, although not a war veteran, of course, I had all kinds of ideas how an author might pull off this similarity between the wars—most likely through reincarnation, although I have also often speculated about cellular memories from our ancestors, and since I have my own ancestors who fought in the Civil War, I was intrigued to find out how Don Meyer would tie these two wars together. For me, the mystery of how main character Sam Kensington can be in both the Civil War and Vietnam War is what made the novel most fascinating to me. But just because The American War has its supernatural aspects, that doesn’t mean it is in any way lacking the gritty realism we expect from war novels. Sadly, having been born during the Vietnam War, it was too recent for me to learn much about it in school and the unpleasantness of it has kept me from wanting to learn more about it, although I can well imagine the agony our soldiers went through. I’m far more familiar with the Civil War. But as I read, I marveled at the descriptions of both wars in the novel, and as far as I know, they are both depicted to be historically accurate. I don’t know how Meyer managed to write the Civil War scenes, but as a Vietnam veteran, I’m sure his personal experiences colored his descriptions for that war in the novel. Not only does Meyer capture the terrain and events of the Vietnam War, but what I most appreciated was that he captured the camaraderie among the characters and wrote very realistic, tight dialogue. I’ve sometimes found war novels a bit boring because they are lacking in plot—there’s no real drama among the characters in terms of relationships like civilians have, and that is understandable, for they are dropped into a war zone and all the conflict and concentration is geared toward fighting and defeating the enemy—there’s little space for romance, petty jealousies, and other personal dramas, etc. But Meyer makes the characters come alive, depicting friendships among the soldiers, bringing in racial issues between the white Sam Kensington and his black friend and fellow grunt, Wilson, as well as the issues of rank in the army among the various soldiers and their officers. There is no sentimentality here, but it’s clear through the dialogue Meyer writes that these soldiers care about each other, that they are frightened, that they have hope, and that often, more is left unsaid than is said. In the end, I feel like The American War is a real testament not only to our soldiers and what they endure, but also a testament to the American soldier and especially families who have served our country through the military for generation after generation. Whatever else I might say will only fall short in trying to understand or explain what it must take to write a novel like this. As a historical fiction writer myself, I can only appreciate the effort, personal feeling, and research Meyer obviously put into it, and I’m sure it was cathartic for him. It should be noted that Meyer is also the author of a Vietnam War memoir, The Protected Will Never Know. I think that title says it all. We can’t know, but we can try to understand what the Vietnam War was for the people who fought in it by reading such novels, and we can be grateful for the sacrifices made. Sadly, Meyer’s main character Kensington never really comes to understand what it all means—fighting such a war—and he concludes, “But it don’t mean nothing.” Writing such a novel has to be difficult as an effort to find meaning in something that can’t easily fit into a neat definition or meaning, but that Meyer is able to accept that, rather than hold onto some false meaning, makes The American War all the better and more realistic and true despite the fanciful aspects of it, which in the end, only confirm that understanding—or lack of one.
Reviewed by Joy H. for Readers Favorite Is it possible to fight two wars at the same time? In the summer of 1969, elements of the 101st Airborne went back to the A Shau Valley in South Vietnam. In the summer of 1864 the 10th Vermont, part of General Ricketts’ Third Division, marched into the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Sam Kensington was there at both campaigns. How on earth can this be possible? I ask myself the same question, and it was only when I read the book that I found the answer. You too can find the answer when you read Don Meyer’s book, “The American War”. War is always a topic we want to find out about, though it is usually not anything good to hear. I think that is why it took me a while to really get interested in this book, but after a while, I was so captured by this well-written story that I couldn’t put the book down. Sam Kensington is the main character, and I won’t go into details about him, because it will ruin the book for you. Sam, otherwise known as Four Seven, was a unique, well-respected soldier in both wars. Don Meyer creates a cast of believable and realistic characters, setting them in a story that is so intense and real that it makes the reader feel as if he is right there in battle with the characters. The way Meyer writes the battlefield scenes gives readers an actual account of what it is like to be there fighting. It all just seem so real when we read it! If you like war stories, this is definitely a book for you to read. Or if you are like me and you are curious as to what the battlefield is like, then also you will enjoy this book. Be advised that this is a book written by a man, with men at war, so you can imagine for yourself the language and men talk in the book. Go grab a copy of this well-written book by author Don Meyer to read for your own enjoyment.
The following is the blurb on the back cover of The American War by Don Meyer: In the summer of 1969 elements of the 101st Airborne went back to the A. Shau Valley in South Vietnam. In the summer of 1864 the 10th Vermont, part of General Ricketts' Third Division, marched into the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Sam Kensington was there at both campaigns. I included the above author's blurb solely for the fact that he could do a much better job summarizing his novel than it turns out I can. Sadly, I did not finish the book. As much as I tried to, I could not engage in the story. I don't particularly like modern day wartime books or movies, especially those based on the Vietnam War. Perhaps they are just too grim and depressing for my tastes. If the majority of the story had actually taken place in the Civil War era, I may have found the book more enjoyable. However, it appears the lead character, the above Sam Kensington, is firmly rooted in the Vietnam War era and only dreaming that he is in the Civil War. And the two events are somehow connected via a gun. So Meyer only gives us glipses and snapshots of the Civil War. Pity, because I lost interest fast. It's clear Meyer did his research on both wars - perhaps, I suspect, might have even been in the Vietnam War himself and even at the particular campaign featured in the book. He has a near encyclopedic knowledge of the everyday life, mannerisms and language of the American soldier in the Vietnam War. And he handles the colloquial switch well between the two eras. He isn's using the same voice for the two different time periods. His voice changes according to the timeperiod and I find that to be the mark of an above average writer. Still, however, I could not bring myself to finish the book. I have many, many books on my library's to-read shelf. I don't have time to slog through a book that isn't catching my fancy. And if you are anything like me, it takes me ten times longer to read a book I'm not enjoying than one I am loving. It's harder to pick the book up and it's harder to stay focused on it. I am giving The American War by Don Meyer two starts, not because it isn't well written but because it just wasn't my cup of tea. I beleive I will pass it on to someone who finds war novels more enjoyable than I.