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Author: S. R. Wilsher

Publisher: S. R. Wilsher


        The Wounded Prisoner of War

Much has been said about the Vietnam war and America’s role in it. Less attention has been focused on American prisoners of war (POW) and the repercussions they have had to suffer at the hands of the Vietnamese. Even less has been said about the mentality of the Vietnamese officer apart from them being projected as a natural object of hate.

This book is different. It attempts to understand the Vietnam War from the perspective of a couple of POWs and their relation with a Vietnamese commandant of war. Further, the commandant happens to be a distinguished man of letters, thus confirming his status as a man with a refined taste, uncomfortable with the idea of violence for the sake of it. He was also mentally prepared to die the kind of death he had dealt out to other POWs.

The book works on two fronts, one each in the USA and Vietnam. Two people have lost their fathers in recent times. The first is a young married woman with no issue in Vietnam. The other is a young American man, newly divorced. Both of them have problems getting on with their mothers.

Both mothers have been married to siblings of men connected with the war. One of them had a love affair with a POW and the other had been close to the Vietnamese commanding officer.

There is another very important character in the book, a POW called Ephraim Luther. He has been ordered to write a diary for the commanding officer, ostensibly so that the latter could gauge military information from those revelations. This particular diary is one of the highlights of this book, being the detailed account of the psyche of an American POW. The humiliation, the beatings, the threats, the appalling life conditions, the agony of not knowing anything, it’s all there. Also documented are his reactions as a POW, who by smart choices of strategy, derived through prayer and writing, achieves an over hand. The commandant is quelled into choosing between his role playing, as an officer and his decent self. The repercussions of all this war karma, how the negative aspects are dissolved, and how the main personae deal with it, is the subject of this book.

As mentioned, the mainstay of this book is the diary and a few letters between two lovers, one of whom is a POW. Both describe in detail, the social implications of being a POW. The author has very skillfully managed not to take sides on who was right on the war issue as the narrative progresses. The plot is convincing and balanced, as closet secrets pop out one by one and how finally the loose ends are tied up.

Personally, like many others, I enjoyed the book very  much. I recommend it warmly.