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Reviewed by Joshua Soule for Readers' Favorite
“Even now, after almost forty years, I still hurt. And I’m one of the lucky ones.” Friendly Casualties is a novel consisting of short stories compiled to create overall vivid imagery of author Tom Glenn’s experience and memories of Vietnam. As a rare strategy often not seen in literature, Glenn writes following the viewpoint of several perspectives in each story. In Part One, Triage, Glenn vividly displays the struggle in the lives of the soldiers who desperately tried to keep it together in the dreadful circumstances around them—typically by medicating with alcohol and women. An even darker reality is presented when one soldier murders another.
Glenn changes pace and follows the life of a Vietnamese woman who saves an American child and thus dooms herself to rejection and death by her own people. Glenn makes it very clear that there are no winners during this war that affects everybody. Another story follows a reporter who, despite his initial desires to merely observe and report, finds himself more emotionally devastated than anticipated. As the reading grows more death-filled and emotionally difficult to read, Part Two, Healing, takes effect. Healing begins the journey of coming together and learning to move on as best as possible after the catastrophe that has just occurred.
Tom Glenn has done an excellent job of providing powerful imagery of his experiences in Vietnam. It is apparent from page one that Glenn has extensive experience and education. The pain, suffering, and even the psychological health of the soldiers depicted in Friendly Casualties is exceptionally displayed and illustrated. The short story format makes it easy to read, and I found myself unable to stop reading once I started. Phrases such as “I looked into their unfinished faces and saw sweetness hidden beneath the fear they concealed by blanking the feeling out of their eyes” show the incredible writing style of author Tom Glenn. I was emotionally invested from the beginning and found myself remaining so after finishing this book. Friendly Casualties is a great work by Tom Glenn!