Book Review: Searching for Gurney

O'Callahan Press

Searching for Gurney, Jack Estes. O’Callahan Press. ISBN: 978-0-9973990-1-1

Jack Estes’ new novel, Searching for Gurney, follows the lives of three US Marines and a North Vietnamese soldier during horrific battles in the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam. The narrative is a set of character studies told in vignettes.

The book delves into the emotional, physical, and psychological effects of the war on the American and Vietnamese young men caught up in the conflict. American soldiers JT, Coop, and Collins, along with North Vietnamese soldier Vuong, fight for their respective countries in a war that is brutal and terrifying.

But what happens after the war? Eventually the Americans go to a home that’s no longer home, while Vuong is assigned to run a labor camp to “reeducate” South Vietnamese soldiers and sympathizers. The war is over, but as Vuong numbly observes, it lives on inside their heads. With gripping clarity, Jack Estes takes the reader into the damaged souls of these young men. The fate of Lt. Gurney haunts every corner of the story as each of them tries to make sense of the war.

Excerpt from the book:

Portland, Summer, 1969

JT WOKE, BUT THEY WERE STILL DEAD. Seventeen dead, two wounded, two missing. The dream stuck in his mind: rice paddies, jungle, tree line exploding. He got up, head pounding, pulse racing, thinking. Go to the baby’s room. In the hallway, he could see Marines facedown, others mangled and broken-boned. Anna’s bedroom was scattered with the dead. Her crib was tucked in the corner, nightlight on the dresser, clowns and zebras dancing across her wall. The soldiers disappeared. He picked her up. He felt safe holding her in the darkness. Anna reminded him he was home. They sat in the rocking chair in front of the window. Soon the moon dropped below the trees, and he kept rocking her until morning

About the author:  Jack Estes is a Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam in 1968 and Jack Estes is a Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam in 1968-’69. “Searching for Gurney” is his third book, following his acclaimed memoir, “A Field of Innocence,” and debut novel, “A Soldier’s Son.” Estes lives in Oregon with his wife, Colleen.


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