Some readers will find The Second Tour, by author Terry P. Rizzuti, to be a grim and grueling read. It is a mirror image of what was one of the most gruesome wars ever fought. For me, this book is also one of the most moving and meticulously crafted novels about that war, or any war, that I’ve read.
The central character, and the story’s narrator, is an intelligent, entry-level Marine named Rootie. The name and his intimate knowledge of the Vietnam experience strongly suggest that the book is as much a memoir as a novel. It is perhaps this blurring of reality and fiction that accounted for much of the book’s powerful hold on me.
The Second Tour tells two tales. The first is that of what is brought and lost to Vietnam. The other is a story of reconnecting to one’s former life – or any kind of life – after returning to what was your home. The author uses a style to tell his story that creates a patchwork quilt of short chapters and vignettes that are not in chronological order, and which include numerous tangents and diversions. At times this approach can make the reader feel as if they are attempting to follow disjointed ramblings that are leading them nowhere.
In fact, what Rizzuti does in The Second Tour is lead us on a brilliantly conceived path to understanding the complex and traumatic impact that the war had on ordinary combat troops who had no way out of the brutalizing experience that was Vietnam. It is a path that guides the reader through the despair of living without hope, dissociation, and the beginnings of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. All along the way, Rootie, the narrator, provides matter-of-fact descriptions of disturbing, yet mesmerizing, acts of violence and immoralities:
…The next morning there were 16 dead gooks and one wounded. Raven made it 17 dead gooks. Did him a favor really… Corporal Beardly got his third purple heart that night. Not because he was wounded but because he had purposefully jabbed his left arm several times with a C-ration can opener. Nobody said anything ‘cause we were all too happy to see him get to go home.”
The Second Tour foretells in many ways the problems that would continue to plague our soldiers in the “new” kind of wars that would come after Vietnam. And if the reader makes a commitment to stick with it, Terry Rizzuti’s powerful book will unlock their comprehension of the plight of our soldiers, not only in combat, but also in completing their “second tour” upon coming home. That second tour is long, in many ways far more daunting than the first, and it is one that is having an alarming impact on our soldiers and our society as a whole. The Second Tour is a difficult read, but a read we owe to our soldiers and ourselves to undertake. It is truly a remarkable debut novel.
(Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views)