In April 1975, as Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese Army, John Bissell, a former Marine officer living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, was glued to his television. Struggling to save his marriage, raise his sons, and live with his memories of the war in Vietnam, Bissell found himself racked with anguish and horror as his country abandoned a cause for which so many of his friends had died.
Opening with a gripping account of the chaotic and brutal last month of the war, The Father of All Things is Tom Bissells powerful reckoning with the Vietnam War and its impact on his father, his country, and Vietnam itself. Through him we learn what it was like to grow up with a gruff but oddly tender veteran father who would wake his children in the middle of the night when the memories got too painful. Bissell also explores the many debates about the war, from whether it was winnable to Ho Chi Minhs motivations to why Americas leaders lied so often. Above all, he shows how the war has continued to influence American views on foreign policy more than thirty years later.
At the heart of this book is John and Tom Bissells unforgettable journey back to Vietnam. As they travel the country and talk to Vietnamese veterans, we relive the war as John Bissell experienced it, visit the site of his near-fatal wounding, and hear him explain how Vietnam shaped him and so many of his generation.
This is the first major book about the war by an author who grew up after the fall of Saigon. It is a fascinating, all-too-relevant work about the American characterand about war itself. It is also a wise and moving book about fathers, sons, and the universal desire to understand who our parents were before they became our parents.
Chapter One: The Fall
The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained.
It would have been spring. The neighborhood yards still yellow and concrete hard, the side panels of the cars you pass on the way home from work spattered with arcing crusts of road salt, the big oaks and elms that loom along Lake Shore Drive throwing down long pale rows of shadow. These trees are covered with stony gray bark, their naked branches black lightning against a deepening indigo sky. Everywhere winters grim spell still holds.
A Midwestern spring at the Forty-sixth Parallel is a different sort of season than the spring one finds even five degrees lower, in Milwaukee, say, or Chicago. In Michigans Upper Peninsula spring never truly arrives. It passes through for a few weeks, shrinks and smoothens the filthy fringes of snow that sit packed against the ...
The Father of All Things is an angry, heartfelt, deeply personal, sometimes darkly funny book that explores the war that shattered Bissell's father and in turn ruptured their family. Although occasionally overly-digressive, this is a powerful book that is likely to add value to those who are very familiar with the period, through reading about it, living through it, or both; and be especially enlightening to those who open its pages with little prior knowledge.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (1224 words).
A Short History of Vietnam
Vietnam's history has been one of repeated invasions and resistance (historic maps). For the millennium up to the early 10th century, Vietnam was controlled by the Chinese, until a final rebellion in 938 led to Vietnam achieving independence. Over the following centuries it repelled a number of Chinese invasion attempts, including three during the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty (1271-1368) while also expanding its own borders substantially south (map).
In the 19th...
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