Pacos Story Paperback – Nov 1 1989
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Paco Sullivan arrives in town penniless and job-hunting, the rain evaporating off the street forming "pungent steam so thick you would think his legs were cut off at the knees." In truth, the enigmatic Paco is indeed crippled. He is the sole survivor of an infantry company "pulverized to ash" in the Vietnam War. The methodical monotony of a dishwashing job in a diner offers some salve, though everyday things bring back savage memories. Heinemann's second novel--the first, Close Quarters, was based on his combat experience in Vietnam--is narrated through the collective voices of Paco's dead colleagues and offers a war veteran's envious and despairing view of the regular world. Paco's Story won the 1987 National Book Award.
From Publishers Weekly
When incoming fire lights up the sky over the good old boys at Fire Base Harriet in Vietnam, the tough soldiers just look at each other and settle in, certain that the nearly 100 of them will die. And all but one are visited by the descending brightness that tears their bodies apart. The ghost of one of these soldiers narrates the story of survivor Paco Sullivan, who lies covered with flies and dirt for two days before being rescued. Badly scarred and limping, he returns to the States and becomes an introspective dishwasher in a small Texas town. This is a well-written, ruminative work in an easy-going, down-home dialect that makes the awful memories of the warthankfullya little bit distant. Heinemann (Close Quarters has a promising talent, but his novel needs a sense of propulsion, not just excellent tales and fine dialogue; and his women should also be more than lusty objects of men's desires. As is, his work is just short of important.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Author Larry Heinemann's use of language is so lyrical that the prose here has a rhythm that is musical. His descriptions are graphic enough that the reader almost can smell the blood, hear the screams, taste the fear.
At times, PACO'S STORY is painful to read, but that is a direct consequence of Heinemann's mastery of the topic. This novel deservedly won the National Book Award.
PACO'S STORY is as significant report of the Vietnam era as CATCH-22 was of World War II.
Not for the weak at heart, Paco's Story is a no-holds-barred narrative told in the most haunting of voices. A must read.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The novel is unsparing in its criticism of a country that was all to eager to send young men off to fight in a controversial war in the jungles of Southeast Asia, but not so enthusiastic about dealing with them when they returned, wounded both physically and psychically. The novel also presents a world in which the soldiers on both sides are dehumanized by guerilla warfare and surrender to evil.
What is Paco's story? It's a story of a grunt who survives a firestorm attack that kills all of his comrades; who clings to life desperately in a hospital far from home; who returns to the States with a cane and a complex of scars disfiguring his body; who lives day in and day out with the knowledge that he lived a life in Vietnam that he can explain to almost no one on the planet.
We see him arrive in a small town via bus, looking for work. We watch him encounter fellow Americans who haven't a clue about what he has endured on their behalf and who do not appear to want to know. We return with him to experience the drudgery and brutality of life in a faraway land and the horrible day that changed his life forever. We listen to him commune with the ghosts of the men with whom he fought in Vietnam.
Finally, we see him depart the town as suddenly as he came, having discovered that a girl upon whom he has spied and fantasized sees him as a disgusting freak.
This is a bitter, eloquent novel that reminds us that we should never forget the soldiers who paid dearly for their service to the country. The wounds they suffered overseas should never be compounded by wounds inflicted by their own countrymen.
Paco's story is written with graphic, lyrical language that brings his horrific war memories, and his trying to fit in as a veteran of a war that nobody really understood, to life. Heinemann writes in an unusual, dream-like way that just draws the reader in, until they feel like they are feeling what Paco feels. He writes of Paco's seemingly mundane experiences and transforms them into something cathartic. A must read for anyone interested in Nam.
Ron Lealos author of Don't Mean Nuthin'