I picked this up after stumbling on the movie version on late-night cable. I always believe that the book is better and in this case it's true as well. This is a book that should be required reading for Americans, so that we can know what it is that we are part of when we send soldiers off to war. Kovic was a true patriot who volunteered for Vietnam -- what happened to him there and when he returned stateside makes for compelling, heart-breaking reading.
Vietnam novel from which they made the movie. Powerful!
I read this book while in college (let's just say that was over 20 years ago) and I've never forgotten it. Heartbreaking, infuriating, inspiring. About a thousand times more powerful than the film. Do read it, and require your teen children to read it, too.
Ron Kovic had a typical blue-collar family, suburban childhood in the early post-World War II years, except for one thing: his birthday. As the title says, he was literally born on our nation's Independence Day. So every year the entire country celebrated his birthday. It made him quite proud.
A few weeks after his high school graduation, when the reality of his probable future as a low-level supermarket employee began to set in, Ron signed up for the Marines. The recruitment office was close to the supermarket where he worked, but even before that, he had been exposed to their seductive techniques of persuasion in his school. They wore impressive uniforms and made inspiring speeches to the male students, who were not exactly boys anymore but were also not quite men yet either and were only too ready to be inspired by talk of heroism and eternal victory.
Ron was sent to Vietnam and seriously wounded. He came home paralyzed from the chest down. This book is a record of his experiences there and following his return home, a "war hero" whose loss and and very real and urgent needs were dismissed and ignored by those who supposedly revered him and his service. He found it almost impossible to adjust to his disability and reconnect to civilian life, until he encountered the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In the VVAW he finally found a group of people who spoke to his fear, his loneliness, and his anger, and helped him channel those negative feelings into positive action to prevent other young men from suffering as he did. I was at least as moved and inspired reading it as he probably was listening to those Marine recruiters so long ago.
I have avoided this book for many years, mostly becaue Tom Cruise starred in the movie, and I am not a Cruise fan. I also mistakenly believed it would be a lengthy discourse on the evils of America. However, the book surprised me completely and touched me deeply and I wish I'd picked it up sooner!
Kovic was indeed born on the 4th of July, and grew up a typical kid of the 50s and 60s, emeshed in patriotism, very idealistic, believing in good guys and all-American heroes. This book begins with his injury--he was paralyzed from the chest down on his second tour in Vietnam--and chronicles the horrors of his hospitalizations (honestly, this book is an indictment of the often inhumane and deplorable treatment he received and witnessed--and should be required reading for all hospitals staffs, aides, doctors and nurses), plus his utter heartbreak over his lost body. It wasn't until years afterward, as he struggled with the additional burdens of several incidents on the battlefield that haunted him, that he came to believe the war was morally wrong.
His writing style is clear, simple, descriptive, thoroughly moving and very very readable. I highly recommend this book.
***** Five stars!
listing came up as hardcover - it really is a paperback.