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PACO'S STORY by Larry Heinemenn (Penguin: $7.95)

December 17, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

The pain that Paco suffers from the hideous wounds he received in Vietnam pale before the cruel indifference of the people he encounters in a small Midwestern town when he returns home. Paco is not one of the cliched, murderous, drugged-out vets of pop fiction, but a simple man, thwarted in his search for a decent life. His story is told in rambling monologue by the unnamed "ghost" of a dead buddy, and Heinemenn argues in this powerful, National Book Award-winning novel, that the callous indifference of the American people has reduced Vietnam veterans to living ghosts. How can the wounds that Paco and thousands of others endured ever heal if the scabs are constantly being pulled off through neglect and voyeurism?

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