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Reviewed by Leonard William Smuts for Readers' Favorite
The almost forgotten war in South East Asia, which ended some fifty years ago, deeply affected the lives of many of those who were involved. The participants included youngsters from America sent to fight a cunning and ruthless enemy for an increasingly unpopular cause. Stephen J Piotrowski was one of those soldiers. Sub-titled One Soldier's Journey Home From Vietnam, No Where Man tells the gripping tale of a young man just out of high school who spent his nineteenth year in the jungles of Vietnam. He was a radio operator in a unit that saw plenty of action, returning home forever changed by his experiences. While battling to adjust to civilian life, he finds that his hometown, friends, and family have also moved on, but in different directions. As he wrestles with his demons, he alternates between relishing the prospect of normal life and missing the adrenalin-pumping action of combat. His reception as a returning veteran was not quite what he expected, but he meets old school friends, drinks a lot, and buys a fast car. Adventures follow and an indiscretion with a married woman forces him to leave town in a hurry after just three months of freedom. The next step offers the potential for a better future.
Stephen J Piotrowski relives the drama of an infantryman fighting a dirty war in a hostile environment. The action is vividly described in the tough language of the day, along with the colorful characters, friendships, and hardships. Toward the end of his tour of duty, he is very aware that life is precious and that staying alive is all that matters. The anti-war sentiment at home created a gulf between returning soldiers and a civilian population deeply divided on the morality of the conflict. Despite the danger and trauma left behind, he finds himself strangely drawn to his former life in the military, plus reflecting on the close comradeship and team spirit he misses. Drinking, his new car, and women provide a diversion, but not stability. I particularly liked the imaginative comparison between exchanging his army rifle for a fast car, as both provided a sense of security and power under vastly different circumstances. No Where Man takes its title from a Beatles song of that era and reflects Stephen’s sense of his lack of identity. Apart from being a gritty and at times poignant account of a young man forced to grow up overnight, the political and social issues and norms of the day are explored. It is a fascinating account of the Vietnam War from a new and highly personal perspective.