At 500+ pages, you might be tempted to pass this one up. Don’t. In January 1968, the Tet Offensive targeted the city of Hue, the historic capital of Vietnam. The city was considered relatively safe and thus lightly defended. More importantly, American military and intelligence sources did not believe that the north had either the capability or the discipline to launch a major offensive. They were wrong. For 24 days, American and Vietnamese forces battled thousands of well-trained, well-armed North Vietnam and Viet Cong fighters. Bowden’s narrative takes the reader into the fight and some of the bloodiest urban combat ever seen. In the end, the clear American goal was no longer to win the war in Vietnam but to extricate themselves.
Appalachia remains a world apart and largely hidden from most of us. It is a world of tight family ties and deep roots in the hills and “hollars” that define home. It is also a place of grinding poverty, despair, and ignorance that seeks relief in drugs and alcohol. This is the world that J. D. Vance’s family sought to escape. They established themselves on a small farm in Ohio, but despite their success, their escape was only partial. The talons of Appalachia dig deep. For the Vance family, the demons born of abuse, alcohol, and poverty continued to plague the family. Vance’s memoir attempts to define the roots of his family’s dysfunction, a search that takes him back to Appalachia. Note: This book launches our Fall Book Discussion groups, on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 9:30 am. Roberta Rubin is the leader.