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Bringing Vincent Home
By Jim Baldridge (Reviewer)
Bringing Vincent Home
(Plain View Press, 2007
Madeleine Mysko's experience and perspective as an Army nurse during the Vietnam War in the burn ward at the Brooke Army Medical Center at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio gives her novel an autobiographical tone.
Kitty Duvall, the main character,is the mother of Vincent Duvall, "Vinnie", who was seriously burned when the helicopter in which he was riding was shot down. When she got word from the DoD that her son was wounded and was in the burn ward at Brooke, Kitty left her comfortable, insular existence in a northeast Baltimore home (on a street which actually exists, but on the southwest side of Baltimore) to rush to her son's side, leaving her anti-war activist daughter, Mary Kate, and oldest son, Jack, behind. She entered the terrible world of agony and death that define a war-time burn ward staffed by dedicated clinicians who strain to meet the difficult needs of survival, or the end of life, of young victims of war, as she searches for stability in the turmoil of her own life. Her Catholic beliefs won't permit her to be rid of her abusive (read WWII PTSD) husband who was absent during much of her children's upbringing.
"Though a novel, Bringing Vincent Home reads like the finest memoir, so authentic and convincing that at times I found myself turning back to the title page to be sure it was a work of fiction. Rarely does a book of any sort touch me as this one did. Madeleine Mysko has created a vivid, beautifully written, and deeply personal piece of literature."
—Tim O'Brien, author, The Things They Carried, and Going After Cacciato (National Book Award Winner).
We read novels or non-fiction and feel them based on our own experiences from that time. Before I enlisted I lost a high school chum who went into the Army's Warrant Officer program so he could be trained as a helicopter pilot; he was shot down and killed. The kid on whose little bicycle I learned to ride was an Army sniper in Vietnam; years later his mother's description to me of his "1,000 yard stare" is born out in Mysko's writing and the writing of others of our generation.
Bringing Vincent Home is an excellent read, and I am pleased to be able to say that Madeleine Mysko is a friend of mine, an anti-war veteran and member of the Baltimore chapters of VFP and VVAW.
Madeleine teaches writing in the Advanced Academic Programs of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland and is also a published poet.
Jim Baldridge is a Vietnam-era veteran, the Baltimore Contact for VVAW and a life-member of VFP. He was stationed at Norfolk Naval Air Station, Pax River NAS and at Keflavik NATO Base in Iceland. In 1969 he produced and distributed an "underground antiwar newsletter" while deployed.