Wiest, a history professor at University of Southern Mississippi, offers something rare in the literary canon of the Vietnam War: an in-depth look at the families—primarily the wives—of the company of U.S. Army 9th Infantry division men he chronicled in The Boys of ’67 (2012). For that book, Wiest spent three years interviewing nearly 100 officers and enlistees of Charlie Company and their significant others. He conducted additional interviews with the soldiers’ wives for the new book and made use of eight “major letter collections.” Through oral histories and his own scene-setting, Wiest tells of the experiences of college students, young housewives and mothers, and working women before, during, and after their husbands’ service in Vietnam. Among the women are Kaye French, who recalls changing her wedding date to accommodate her husband’s training and finding out she was pregnant just after he shipped out; Mary Ann Simon, who endured an agonizing wait for updates after her future husband was shot in Vietnam; and Sue Reed, whose marriage foundered partly due to her husband’s wartime experiences. Wiest writes well and with empathy for what the women went through. This is a novel look at the Vietnam War’s legacy that speaks to the experiences of military families today. (Oct.)
A painful yet impressive account of the effects of war on the families left behind.” Kirkus
“This is a serious book and as such deserves a dedicated effort to fully understand and absorb.” IPMS/USA
""This book chronicles the Vietnam War thought the perspectives and experiences of the families and loved ones left behind." - Military Heritage
"[The wives'] reminiscences unfold, along with Wiest’s perspectives, in an oral-history style. “When I spoke to these women, they had been alone for so long and their experiences had been invisible for so long, that they were sure they didn’t have a story to tell.... They do. Collecting their and their husbands’ voices is commendable." - Military Times
"This book is poignant, well-written and researched, and at time both uplifting and depressing. It is not an easy read, but it's a fascinating one." - Army Magazine
"Reading Charlie Company’s Journey Home might provide an eye-opening lesson for the average American. Today’s society often overlooks or takes its all-volunteer armed forces for granted.In comparison, the men of Charlie Company were almost entirely made up of draftees whose lives were involuntarily disrupted by military service. The difference in self-sacrifice is incalculable and Wiest shows it." - VVA Veteran
"Wiest writes well and with empathy for what the women went through. This is a novel look at the Vietnam War’s legacy that speaks to the experiences of military families today." - Publishers Weekly
"Wiest has written an important work about veterans and their courageous spouses, preserving their stories for us to analyze and reflect upon." - Washington Independent Review of Books
"Wiest provides a compassionate look at how the conflict impacted these individuals to the present day. Although specific to this Vietnam experience, readers will appreciate the common threads that run through the sacrifices of military duty during conflict ... Although there are plenty of other works that discuss the home front, the uniqueness here lies in the cohesive yet distinctive experiences of the Charlie Company itself, offering a deeper understanding of the soldiers through the actions of their wives during their year away ... Historians, military spouses, and those impacted by Vietnam will find this work sensitive, familiar, and uplifting." - Library Journal
"Written with such compelling narratives, you immerse instantly into one family after another. Unlike tales of war that end with a peace treaty, these battles continue decades later with haunting re-occurrence. The victories are for those that overcome." - Seattle Book Review
"This is a book for the casualties and survivors of that warincluding the men, women, and children who loved them." - Clarion-Ledger / Hattiesburg American
In 1967, the United States increased its presence in Vietnam from 300,000 to 500,000 troops, 40 percent of whom were married. Wiest (history, Univ. of Southern Mississippi) follows up his powerful work The Boys of '67 with a sequel of sorts: the perspectives of the wives and families left behind. Using oral interviews, letters, diaries, and other primary resources, Wiest provides a compassionate look at how the conflict impacted these individuals to the present day. Although specific to this Vietnam experience, readers will appreciate the common threads that run through the sacrifices of military duty during conflict: loneliness, striving for balance upon return to civilian life, and coping with physical and mental illnesses related to wartime service. Although there are plenty of other works that discuss the home front, the uniqueness here lies in the cohesive yet distinctive experiences of the Charlie Company itself, offering a deeper understanding of the soldiers through the actions of their wives during their year away. VERDICT Historians, military spouses, and those impacted by Vietnam will find this work sensitive, familiar, and uplifting.—Maria Bagshaw, Elgin Community Coll. Lib., IL
A focused Vietnam War-era history of the "wives and families…left behind for war."
The Boys of '67, the author's intimate history of an infantry company in Vietnam, was well-received when it was published in 2012, and it became the basis for the National Geographic special Brothers in War. Here, Wiest (History/Univ. of Southern Mississippi; Vietnam: A View from the Front Lines, 2013, etc.) revisits the material, adding interviews and covering similar ground, this time from the perspectives of the soldiers' wives and families. The result is a moving work as stirring as its predecessor. The format jumps back and forth among two dozen wives across seven chapters; the recollections begin with their childhoods and continue through their present lives. The 1966 draft took men, married or not, soon after they reached 18. Men in college were exempt, so the resulting Army was not a cross-section of the population, and readers will be unnerved at the impoverished backgrounds of so many. A private's pay gave many their first taste of financial security. Women married younger in those days, and many couples were courting when the draft notice arrived. Consequently, there were hasty marriages, and a surprising number of men left for Vietnam with their wives pregnant or with small children. The women had a miserable time. Often fresh out of high school, they struggled alone but with remarkable success to make a home, earn a living, and care for an infant, always aware that their husbands were in mortal danger. Normal life sometimes resumed after their service, but more often than not, the men were emotionally damaged, withdrawn, or abusive. Some marriages recovered, but others didn't, and it's quite possible that the author has omitted the worst cases.
A painful yet impressive account of the effects of war on the families left behind.