How Can You Mend This Purple Heart

A Novel

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
218 Pages
Reviewed on (not set)
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Author Biography

Terry Gould was raised throughout rural Missouri living a Tom Sawyer-like life as his dad moved their family from farm to farm, town to town and house to house within the towns. The early years of packing up and moving to new places with new friends every year or two nurtured in him the creativity and adventuresome spirit that has been cause for both celebration and regret.

In this award-winning novel, author Gould draws upon his experiences while recovering in a military hospital surrounded by wounded Marines from the Viet Nam War. He creates a plain truth, no-holds-barred narrative, stark in its simplicity, detail and humor. It takes the reader into the world of a military hospital and traces the lives of these Marines on a fifteen-month journey to recovery—and their triumph over the physical, mental and emotional wounds of war.

It took Gould more than 40 years for the story to break free from the emotions of his experiences and find its way on paper.

After serving in the Navy from 1968 to 1971, Gould earned a bachelor’s degree in Technical Education from the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, followed by a Masters in Business Administration from Baldwin-Wallace University, Berea, Ohio. He currently is retired after a 30-year career in marketing, advertising and public relations and resides near Nashville.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

How Can You Mend This Purple Heart: A Novel is an historical fiction novel written by T.L. Gould. Jeremy Shoff was all set to make use of his college deferment to study art until his father happened to come upon the notice from the Selective Service Board. Even though his two elder brothers were already serving, his dad insisted that Jeremy would be serving his country as well. The two fought that night, and Jeremy, bruised and battered, left home the following day. In his anger at his dad, he visited the Marines recruitment center and made a verbal commitment, which, after some reflection, and at the urging of his girlfriend, he did not follow through on. That visit to the Marines had resulted in a forfeiture of his deferment, however, so Jeremy joined the Navy. He trained in electronics and made his first close friend, a fellow Navy man named, William Otis Johnson. The two were thrilled when they were assigned spots on an eight-month-long goodwill tour that would travel around the world. But Jeremy never did get to go on that tour, as the graduation celebrations, which Johnson wisely passed up on, ended in the car Jeremy was in hitting a bridge. His war would be spent in the US Naval Hospital in Philadelphia, and he would be in the company of Marines the entire time.

T.L. Gould's historical fiction novel, How Can You Mend This Purple Heart, is raw, authentic and wrenching. It's also one of those novels a reader can get totally wrapped up in. As I read of Jeremy's time in hospital with the grievously wounded Marines who would adopt him as one of their own, I was reminded of the young engineer Hans Castorp's stay in the TB sanitarium when he was visiting his ill cousin and eventually contracted the illness himself. While the war is infinitely more distant in Thomas Mann's classic novel, The Magic Mountain, it is still ever-present throughout the work, and Castorp, like Jeremy, is ever conscious of his not really belonging.

Gould's characters are marvelous and unforgettable, especially Ski, the incredibly stoic Russian Jew, Bobby Mac, the half-blood Cherokee who makes light of his injuries, Earl Ray, the Marine who at one point almost kills Jeremy, and Doc Miller, the medic who is the healing angel of Ward 2B. In that ward, I got to experience for a few hours the physical pain and emotional turmoil of young men barely out of high school and now faced with a future coping with missing limbs and horrific memories. How Can You Mend This Purple Heart is a big and powerful work that doesn't address the rights and wrongs of why we were in Vietnam; rather it shines a light on those who fought in that war and the price they paid. It's most highly recommended.

Deborah Lloyd

T.L. Gould’s fictional work, How Can You Mend This Purple Heart: A Novel, is an unforgettable, compelling story. Although it is a novel, the author shares that it is based on his own life experience. The setting is a military hospital located in south Philadelphia during the Vietnam War. A group of severely wounded soldiers is struggling to heal physically, mentally and emotionally. The main character is Jeremy Shoff, who was badly injured in a car accident after his graduation ceremony to be a Navy radioman. Not only does Jeremy have his own recovery issues, but he battles with feelings of guilt and shame as his fellow ward mates deal with lost limbs, excruciating pain, flashbacks, and other combat-related horrors. The close bonds and enduring friendships the men form are truly awe-inspiring.

Although How Can You Mend This Purple Heart is fictional, the authentic tone of the writing suggests that author T.L. Gould has included many real life situations. The narration is realistic; it is easy to imagine that young men detained on a hospital ward for months would give each other nicknames, use swear words, and have physical altercations. Character development is well done as each man’s struggles are revealed. How each man’s recovery is affected by his beliefs, personal relationships and life goals is thought-provoking. Because of the realistic nature of the book, there are some graphic and gruesome sections. However, these accounts are necessary for one to fully understand what these young men experienced. This is a very important book.

Charles Remington

During the Vietnam War, Jeremy Shoff receives his call up papers, but is talked out of joining the Marines by his girlfriend. He joins the navy instead, with happy visions of world travel and visits to exotic ports - which are quickly dispelled when he is involved in a bad road traffic accident. Severely injured, he wakes up in a navy hospital where ward 2B will become his home for some considerable time. How Can You Mend This Purple Heart goes on to describe how he comes face to face with the harsh realities of war - brutally injured young men, victims of bombs and land mines, missing limbs and organs, with splintered bones and broken spirits, struggling to come to terms with their shattered lives. As Shoff’s injuries were not received in combat, he is riddled with guilt, feeling that he does not belong amongst these battle veterans, and faces violent derision from some of his fellow patients, who label him a ‘non-combat mothafucker.’ Slowly though, he is accepted and the hard hitting story which is based on true events follows the fortunes of a group of young soldiers, most still in their teens, as they try to mend their broken lives. It is a long hard road described in unflinching detail by the author, Terry Gould; the physical pain, the mental suffering, but also the lighter moments, the black humour, and the kindness and sympathy of strangers. This is not an easy read, but I urge you read this book for the sake of all the broken young men, victims of the endless wars we seem unable to stop.

This is one of the hardest reviews I have undertaken - trying to do justice to the subject matter of How Can You Mend This Purple Heart. T.S. Gould has produced a hard hitting, unblinking narrative which at times brought me close to tears. I am thinking particularly of one episode where a young marine is brought into the ward. Not only having had parts of his body blown off, but also suffering from extensive phosphorous burns, he is in desperate pain and pleading piteously to be allowed to die. This book should be required reading for all those politicians and men of religion who would send our young men and women to war. Sadly, however, during the sixty-five years I have been on this planet, I have seen such a stream of wars, skirmishes, so called police actions and atrocities in the name of some faction or religion or other that I have come to believe that as long as wars are good for business we are just going to keep having them. When will we ever learn?

Ray Simmons

First, I like the title, How Can You Mend This Purple Heart. I don’t know if T.L. Gould was thinking of “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” when he wrote this title, but if he was, this is a great play on words. Either way, it is a good title and an awesome book. This is an important book. This is an emotional book. Better than that, it is a true story. I like to think this is a story that Lieutenant Dan from the Forrest Gump movie could tell. I laughed and I cried as I read this book. I admit, I’m an easy target. I cry if my children tell me they love me at the right time. I’m willing to bet most of you will cry and laugh as you read this too.

How Can You Mend This Purple Heart is beautifully written. It is easily the best first-person account of the healing process I have ever read. Soldiers can be irreverent sometimes, and for me it is important that a writer captures that irreverence while leaving them the dignity and honor they deserve. T.L. Gould does this with the artistry of a poet, and the truth of someone who has been there. The words ring true. The settings ring true. Most of all, the characters ring true. They are us. They are our friends and family. They are America. This is a book every American should read. If our soldiers are important to you, and you do like to read, then pick up How Can You Mend This Purple Heart by T.L. Gould.

Mary Catharine Nelson

A well deserved honor for this remarkable book!

Jennifer Braun, Personal Hist

This story truly touched my heart and there were many times I had to wipe away the tears, but I finally finished reading. This is a totally honest book and one of the best first person narratives I have read about the Vietnam War. It is simple and straightforward but also a compulsive page turner. This is not a story for the fainthearted, but it’s one that should not be missed. It stands tall with the best books ever written about men in combat.

Jennifer Lea Lopez, author of Sorry is N

There are not many books that can make you laugh and also make you cry—sometimes laughing through sorrow and crying out of joy—but Terry has crafted such a story. I dare you not to fall in love with every character, and I dare you not to come away from this story wanting to hug every soldier you meet. I don’t think you’ll be able to do it.

Stacey Danson, Author of Empty Chairs

Thank you so much for writing this book. Vietnam hit Australia in the gut as well. I watched dear friends leave to fight as young men and return aged and broken. The time of shame and guilt that tore your country and mine apart needs to be told to generations that simply do not or will not remember. Your wonderful writing has provoked anger, sadness and pride. This book is cleansing, powerful, emotional and a must read.

Darrell Kuipers, Vietnam Veteran

This book was a difficult read for me. I had to take breaks to keep from just quitting the reading altogether. But the real-life story of the wounded soldiers on Ward 2B, and the portrayal of their struggles, was too compelling to put it down. Their experiences, while unpleasant and very real, made their journey to recovery heartwarming and joyous. Thank you, Terry, for all the blood sweat and tears you put into this book.