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March 13, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

ON DISTANT GROUND by Robert Olen Butler (Henry Holt: $11; 245 pp.). Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Robert Butler continues his exploration of the aftermath of the Vietnam War in a compelling, understated story. In 1975, intelligence officer David Fleming faces a court martial for helping a Viet Cong officer to escape. As he strives to understand his actions, this repressed man rediscovers his own past, including why his brief romance with an aristocratic Vietnamese woman ended abruptly. News footage of the attempt to airlift orphans of mixed parentage out of Vietnam before the fall of Saigon leads Fleming to expand his definition of duty and make a desperate attempt to redeem himself.

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