A bomb (or 2, or 3, or 10000) instantly transforms a young lover into an exhausted killer, a "robotic fanatic." There was no napalm on theWestern Front. There was napalm in the Jungle of Screaming Souls.
Kien cannot resort to pacifism. His country has been invaded over and over again. "If war came, they would fight, and fight courageously.But that didn't mean they loved fighting." Only the leaders loved fighting. No, they loved making others fight.
There is also a credible love story, Kien’s feelings for the beautiful gifted and lovingPhuong, this love destroyed with pathos by war, loss and suffering. There is the loss of youth, family, life, tradition and love — all is encompassed in the real sorrow of war, in other words, thehuman story of war.
Kien looks back not just at his 10 years at war, but at his final days at school, his confused love for Phuong, his work with the MIA team after the war, the rapid dissolution oflife itself fought out in the jungles and cities of Vietnam.
There is a parallel story of lost love (Phuong and Kien) and the sorrowful story of war — both fierce but in a way the two forces aremultiplied together here — love lost and the agony of war.
There was also a mute girl whom Kien loved on another level. She gathered the windswept pages of his manuscript; an injured woman-soldier whom heloved very briefly; an attempted seduction of him by one of “The green Coffee girls”; and Lanh, who at the age of 13 had pledged her love for Kien. But his life-long love for the wandering and...