I'm a stone sucker for gritty Vietnam tales and don't care whether they are fantasy or realism, as long as someone is holding in their innards with a sweaty bandanna or emptying their 60 into the trees. In this novel, Brown goes where other writers like Robert Stone, Thom Jones and Bill Shields also go; things get ugly, they go to hell through nobody's fault, luck and Jesus run out at the same time. On paper, the plot seems somewhat hackneyed - the short-fuse father who ends up in the Big House, the school bullies, the Vietnam ambush scenes, etc. But Brown makes it work. We want to know what both of the main characters are thinking. Even more interesting than any of this is the budding relationship between the protagonist and another wrecked soul who sells him the beer that blunts his pain. Although the early Cuckoo's Nest reference telegraphs the ending somewhat, this book reads quick and rough, like the first elementary school beating I ever took. Recommended.