"...would make a great Hollywood movie and provides an ingenious... end to an entertaining novel."
A profound tale of perseverance and family.
Vietnam veteran’s return to the United States sees him facing anti-war protesters and menacing mobsters in this novel.
By 1970, Augustino “Augie” Cumpton has finished his tour of Vietnam. Though it’s a decade before PTSD becomes an official medical condition, Augie is unquestionably afflicted. Some of it stems from guilt, as he watched friends die in battle, including a fellow soldier who sacrificed his own life for Augie’s. Augie enrolls in graduate school in his home state of West Virginia not long after the Kent State shootings. Upon learning he’s a vet, students and faculty berate him, one even calling him a “baby killer.” After leaving the university, Augie initially fares better working the night shift at the Chestnut Bakery, the family-run business his grandfather started over 50 years ago. But when a member of the mob organization The Black Hand threatens and later beats Uncle Giorgio, Augie responds by knocking out the thug. Uncle Sal tells Augie to lay low and hopes to avoid The Black Hand’s retaliation. The group subsequently demands that Augie’s family turn him over, which Sal resists, looking for a way to save his nephew before dangerous mobsters track down the vet. Brown’s character-driven sequel boasts a consistent pace, occasionally spotlighting Augie’s family and friends. Periodic lighter moments lessen the generally grim tone, as when Augie sits in on a game of pinochle with his charming but foulmouthed aunts and a family friend. Nevertheless, the book’s strongest scenes involve his Vietnam experience, particularly as Augie visits the relatives of his lost comrades. The final act turns darker and more violent. Not only are Augie’s flashbacks and nightmares a never-ending struggle, but those hurt—or killed—by mobsters looking for him compound his already hefty guilt. While the ending satisfies, there’s room for another installment or, perhaps, a spinoff.
A profound tale of perseverance and family. (acknowledgements, recipes, author bio)