Good for One Ride

Fiction - Military
120 Pages
Reviewed on 01/17/2015
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Author Biography

Gary McGinnis served with the Army in the Tet Offensive in 1968 as a Water Purification Specialist attached to the Infantry. He suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and has received over ten years of therapy regarding war traumas. His perception of the war is drawn from mid-level combat, and prepares the reader to reflect on the psychological and spiritual aspects regarding the fragmentation of self relative to veterans from any war – especially relevant to the wars fought in Iraq and Afghanistan where soldiers have faced IEDs daily.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Heather Osborne for Readers' Favorite

Good For One Ride by Gary McGinnis is a moving semi-autobiographical account of the time spent in Vietnam by a Water Purification Specialist. Private Theo Garrett is part of the 2nd Infantry Division, 2nd Engineers. He and his fellow soldiers are in charge of making sure there is drinkable water wherever the units move. In a seemingly harmless exercise, Private Garrett is faced with sleepless nights surrounded by Viet Cong and endless mortar fire. Garrett and many of the other soldiers struggle to cope with the atrocities before them, often turning a blind eye to clear cases of injustice. A harrowing tale of one man’s journey from his safe home in Vermont to the harsh world of the Vietnam War.

Not having read much about the Vietnam War, I was very intrigued by Mr. McGinnis’ memoir-style novel. I expected something akin to The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I was pleasantly surprised by the content of the book. I found the poems at the beginning of each chapter very succinct, preparing the reader with just the right level of emotion for the coming chapter. I was particularly pleased by the way Mr. McGinnis writes so candidly about the things Private Garrett experiences. I did have a difficult time following the story at some points and I am sure this was meant to reflect the chaos of the war itself. Another look through by an editor would be the ideal thing to tighten up the manuscript. Good For One Ride is an emotional, to-the-point novel that will leave the reader contemplating the meaning of war long after they finish the last page.

Jack Magnus

Good for One Ride is a military novel written by Gary McGinnis. When Garrett boards the plane that will take him to Vietnam, it's after a somber and cold send-off by his father, and an emotional drive to the airport by his inconsolable mother. His father didn't look back when he walked up the stairs, and his mother was too distraught to wave goodbye as he stared out the airplane window. When the plane arrives at Tan Son Nhut airport, there's a huge crowd of people, milling and swelling and roaring, and as the new soldiers approach, they see that the crowd is filled with soldiers, their eyes filled with pain. Garrett realizes that in a year, if he survives, he'll be one of those men waiting anxiously for that trip back home.

Gary McGinnis' military novel, Good for One Ride, is set in Vietnam. Garrett's two years in college appears to have been factored into the army's decision to assign him to the Combat Engineers. He's relatively safe compared to those assigned to Infantry, but that specter looms over him throughout his tour, as a document called a levy could mean his immediate transfer. Reading Good for One Ride felt a lot like seeing a modern-day Dante's Inferno throughout Garrett's eyes. Garrett is apart, a spectator, and on his own for much of his tour, and he forms bonds with some of the Vietnamese children. He's terrified when the shelling starts at night, and sickened and horrified by the actions of the Vietcong and some of his fellow soldiers. I sat up all night reading this story. I didn't want to put it down until I knew what happened to my tour guide to hell. Good for One Ride is a modern classic war story, and it's a tale that's quite unforgettable. Good for One Ride is most highly recommended.

Rich Follett

Good for One Ride by Gary McGinnis is billed as a work of fiction but reads more like a gripping memoir of the Vietnam War. McGinnis’ characters are so vivid and the events so real that distinguishing the narrative from reality is virtually impossible. McGinnis’ description is visceral and darkly riveting; there are times when readers will want to turn away from the images in Good for One Ride but will keep reading nevertheless, caught in the can’t-look-away chaos which characterizes the world in which McGinnis’ Private Garrett tries to make sense of the insensible.

McGinnis’ prose is punctuated by stark minimalist poems which introduce each chapter, creating the feeling of leafing through a forbidden, macabre photo album. The overall effect is mesmerizing: the poems set the tone for each chapter, with the subsequent narrative providing color and context to make the reader feel a part of the action as the story unfolds. Private Garrett, the protagonist of Good for One Ride, is a sort of Vietnam War Everyman; he is heroic in his will to survive and alternately comic and tragic in his efforts to comprehend the madness which surrounds him. Upon the solid foundation of this universal human dichotomy, McGinnis has carefully crafted Garrett’s experience to echo that of all enlisted men who fought to survive in jungles of napalm and blood.

As candid and as cinematic as Gary McGinnis’ Good for One Ride may be, one cannot help but feel that layers of even more unspeakable horror and devastation lie just beneath its surface - as if the storyteller has seen and experienced far more than decency will permit in the telling. In the end, readers will be grateful for this respectful distance. Good for One Ride is intense, overwhelming, courageous, and eminently worth reading.