Friday, November 14, 2008

The Names of the Dead

The Names of the Dead by Stewart O'Nan was originally published in 1996. My hardcover copy is 399 pages. The Names of the Dead is O'Nan's second novel. In it, Larry Markham's life is in turmoil. His wife has left him, again, with their young, disabled son. He has constant dreams of his time as a medic in Vietnam and the men who died, but is unable to talk about his experiences, even to the support group he leads. His relationship with his father is filled with tension and unanswered questions. And now a trained killer from his support group has apparently targeted him for death. While this is an excellent novel, readers should be forewarned that there is a lot of material covering Larry's time in combat in Vietnam. This is very essential to the story itself, but if you would generally avoid combat novels, Names of the Dead might not be a good choice for you. On the other hand, if you are a real connoisseur of combat novels or stories from Vietnam, this is also not a good choice for you. Fellow members of the Stewart O'Nan fan club will like it. Rating: 4

Synopsis from cover:
In Ithaca, New York, in 1982, Larry Markham awakes to discover his wife, Vicki, has taken their young son, Scott, and left him - not for the first time, possibly for the last. It is a deep blow to a life already in fragments: a dead-end job delivering Wonder Bread; a strained relationship with his aging father, a veteran of World War Two; and weekly visits to the VA hospital where Larry, a former Army medic, leads a support group for disabled Vietnam vets. As he struggles to win Vicki back, Larry finds he is in danger of a far more imminent sort: A disturbed member of the support group - a trained CIA assassin - has disappeared, and is stalking Larry and his family. His methods send an unmistakable message: The game will end in death.

At the same time, The Names of the Dead is a harrowing and heartfelt portrait of the Vietnam War and the men who fought it. The year is 1968, the place A Shau valley, and Larry Markham - nineteen and green - must find a way to keep his platoon alive. Here we see the stories Larry cannot bring himself to tell - of friends who made the ultimate sacrifice in a war their country scorned. The Names of the Dead is the story of a man trying to find his way back to himself - a story about storytelling and memories that refuse to fade. It is the story of a man rediscovering the courage to love one woman, and, through her, the world, his country, his family, and finally himself.
"Larry Markham's wife left him while he was asleep." first sentence.

"There was no real. There were the dreams and there was what Larry Markham remembered. They did not change. In both, his platoon all died." pg. 3

"She never left him for more than a few days. That was what this was. It was Monday, and he was sure to have a full truck..." pg. 4

"She was the one who turned out the light every night, and now, without her, he thought it fitting that he leave it on. When they came to him later - when Pony came, or Bogut, or Carl Metcalf, and he woke up with his hands miraculously cleansed of blood, when he missed his dead so much that he wanted to be alone with them, if only in sleep - he would need the light. To remind him that there was another world. To remind him that he was alive." pg. 38

"It don't matter if they're dead, they come get you anyway...come for you every night." pg. 59

He tried to imagine Creeley out there somewhere, field-striping his cigarettes as he prepared to break camp at the edge of someone's back pasture, but it didn't fit with the day, the slow stirring of people getting ready for work, the lunches that needed to be made, the patient drawing on of socks. Knowing he was out there among the still houses and gravel backroads made Larry uneasy." pg. 88

1 comment:

samantha.1020 said...

I think that I will be adding every novel by this author to my TBR list. Thanks for the review!