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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.