How Can You Mend This Purple Heart

A Novel

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
216 Pages
Reviewed on 06/12/2016
Buy on Amazon

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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 the fall of 1968 Gould enlisted in the U. S. Navy during the Viet Nam War era. In May, 1969 he was involved in a horrific car accident and spent the next fifteen months in the U. S. Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, PA where he was lucky enough to share ward space with combat-wounded Marines and discovered what war can do to human beings--physically, mentally and emotionally.

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.

How Can You Mend This Purple Heart received the 2010 Military Writers Society of America Silver Award and the 2013 Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, James Webb Award for exemplary writing about the Marine Corps and Marine Corps life.

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?