Synopses & Reviews
From the author of the classic National Book Award-winning novel Paco's Story, an equally classic and haunting memoir of the Vietnam War.
In 1966 Larry Heinemann, a working-class twenty-two-year-old from Chicago, was drafted into the Army just as the American military buildup in Vietnam was going into overdrive. He served one year of combat duty with the 25th Infantry Division, from March 1967 to March 1968, most of it in the vicinity of Cu Chi (of tunnels fame). It was the most horrific and consequential year of his life and served as the raw material for his two subsequent classic war novels, Close Quarters and Paco's Story. The war also devastated his family. Both of his brothers served in the military, and one of them killed himself, while the other has been missing for many years. Truly, the Vietnam War altered Heinemann's life utterly and forever.
Black Virgin Mountain is structured along a railway journey Larry Heinemann took in 1992 from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City as the guest of the Vietnam Writers Association and ends with a crawl through the Tunnels of Cu Chi and a climb up the sacred mountain that provides the title's namesake. From there, he can view the entire compass of his combat experience in-country (including the horrific battle in which Oliver Stone also fought and used as the bloody climax of Platoon). Along the way, the author encounters Vietnamese veterans of the war and views sites that trigger powerful memories. This memoir is an unforgettable threnody and a moving act of reconciliation.
"An excellent gateway to the war and its impact on families, American and Vietnamese. Heinemann takes the reader on an extraordinary journey of reconciliation both for himself and for Vietnam." Chicago Sun-Times
"A brilliant, masterful piece of writing....Loving, smart, angry, tender, blunt, heartbreaking, tough, edgy, funny, bitter, redemptive, and so incredibly well-written....Black Virgin Mountain, I promise, will endure." Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried
"No American novelist has written about the profound issues of military combat better than Larry Heinemann. Now he has written — in that ravishingly dynamic narrative voice that is distinctly his own — the finest memoir to come from the Vietnam War." Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
"Heinemann [is]...some would say, the best writer of the Vietnam generation....[Black Virgin Mountain] puts the Vietnam War in the context of America’s other wars, at least in regard to what any war does to its veterans." Los Angeles Times
In 1967 Larry Heinemann was sent to Vietnam as an ordinary soldier. It was the most horrific year of his life, truly altering himand his familyforever. In his powerful memoir, Heinemann returns to Vietnam, riding the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh city and confronting the memories of his war year. Black Virgin Mountain confirms Heinemanns legendary plain-spoken reputation as one of the essential chroniclers of our war in Vietnam
About the Author
Larry Heinemann is the author of three novel: Close Quarters (1977), one of the earliest novels of the Vietnam War; Pacos Story (1986), winner of the National Book Award; and Cooler by the Lake (1992). He lives in his native city of Chicago, Illinois.