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Paco's Story by Larry Heinemann
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Paco's Story (1986)

by Larry Heinemann

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5146. Paco's Story, by Larry Heinemann (read 7 Apr 2014) (National Book Award fiction prize for 1987) I read this because it won the 1987 National Book Award fiction prize. It is the 57th such winner I have read. It is a brutal every obscenity undeleted account of a guy who is horribly wounded in Vietnam but lives and returns to the U.S. and when discharged travels, and comes to a town named Boone, which is fictional since it is in Wyandotte County and no town named Boone is actually in any county called Wyandotte.. There he with little effort obtains a job as a dishwasher in one of the two restaurants in town. We are told a lot about his dishwashing work--more than I have ever read about such work before. He is a good worker but is bugged by a girl who rooms near his room--he never meets her but she and he are mighty curious about each other. The behavior of Americans in Vietnam is filled with description of their bad behavior, including rape and murder. There is nothing uplifting about the story as of course there is much not uplifting about the Vietnam War. I found the book dismal and not good reading. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | Apr 7, 2014 |
While this novel is about Vietnam, most of it takes place in the U.S. Paco is the only survivor of a battle although he is seriously wounded. He recovers but carries the physical and emotional baggage that comes with his experiences. Heinemann explores how his fellow Americans treated a return war vet especially one who shows the physical wounds and hints at the emotional ones below the surface. It is not always a pretty picture of America as she faces up to problems of the mainly blue collar men who fought in a war they did not believe in and now are coming home deeply wounded. Heinemann, who is a Vietnam vet, also wrote Close Quarters, a novel set in Vietnam and Black Virgin Mountain, a memoir in which he combines his war experiences with return visits to Vietnam in the 1990's to meet the people he fought during the war. ( )
  lamour | Aug 7, 2011 |
In Larry Heineman's Paco's Story, Paco was the only surviving soldier after a raid that decimated his unit. With both physical and mental scars, Paco re-enters society, going through the motions of life. Readers are offered a glimpse at how a soldier from that war was treated upon his return, both with disdain and occasional pride. We get an inside look at the horrors of war, and Heineman pulls no punches in describing the war in brutal and honest terms.

Paco's Story began strong, one of those books I was sure would be a five star book by the time I finished. However, I was a little put off by the shifting voice of the narrator as the novel went on. It was inconsistent at times, and therefore a bit disjointed. It is still a powerful book, one I am glad I read, and deserves a high rating and much of the praise it has received. ( )
  LiteraryFeline | Oct 11, 2010 |
Paco's Story by Larry Heinemann chronicles the war experiences of Paco, the only surviving soldier of the Fire Base Harriette massacre from Alpha Company. The narrative is unusual in that Paco does not tell his own story of his survival or his recovery and ultimate return to the United States from the Vietnam War. Though readers get to know Paco through the eyes of others and his nightmares, Paco is a vivid and lost character in search of peace.

"Paco is in constant motion, trying to get settled and comfortable with that nagging, warm tingling in his legs and hips." (Page 35)

Heinemann's language is raw, scraping down to the guts and bones in his readers, making them cringe, turn away, and stand agape. A number of readers may find the graphic scenes in this novel to be too much, but what makes them uncomfortable are the realities of war and the breakdown of humanity. Paco struggles not only with why he was the only survivor, but how to assimilate himself back into a society he no longer recognizes once stateside.

Read the full review: http://savvyverseandwit.com/2010/07/pacos-story-by-larry-heinemann.html( )
  sagustocox | Jul 27, 2010 |
The description of the war wounds suffered by this Vietnam veteran soldier are so grotesque. The scars and pain that remain with him emotionally and physically blur the ability for him to accept and be accepted as a person again in society after returning back to the states. Employment is hard to find but as a diner busboy and dishwasher he finds some peace in absorbing himself in his work, cigarette breaks and being spied on by a lonely girl that toys with him by having loud sex with her boy toys rooms away where he can hear her. ( )
  Ms.Claudia | Jan 7, 2010 |
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Heinemann’s brilliance is that whenever Paco’s world trails into the maudlin, he flings us back to Vietnam, the firefight that killed all of Paco’s platoon, the months in the hospital on various pain-killing drugs, and so on, and the anodyne of the present becomes justified, and realistic.
 
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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After surviving a brutal Vietcong attack at Fire Base Hariette and returning to the United States from Vietnam, Paco Sullivan is haunted by the ghosts of the men he saw killed there.

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