HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Into No Man’s Land: The Journal of Patrick Seamus Flaherty, United States Marine Corps, Khe Sanh, Vietnam, 1968
Author: Ellen Emerson White
Cover Illustrator: Steve Stone
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks, reprinted 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0606262156 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0606262156 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0545398886 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0545398886 Paperback
Related website(s): http://www.scholastic.com (publisher)
Language level: 3 (almost 4)
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: For ages 10 – 14; I’d say ages 14-18
Rating: *** 3 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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White, Ellen Emerson. Into No Man’s Land: The Journal of Patrick Seamus Flaherty, United States Marine Corps, Khe Sanh, Vietnam, 1968 (Published in 2002 by Scholastic Inc., 557 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012). It is 1968, and Patrick Seamus Flaherty, who lives in Boston, MA, with his fire-fighter father, mother, and younger sister Molly (his older sister Brenda is married and has kids), has just graduated from high school and joins the Marine Corps to fight in the Vietnam War. He is stationed at Khe Sanh, where some of his fellow Marines are nicknamed Fox, Mooch, Smedley, Rotgut, Apollo, Hollywood, Professor, Shadow, and Bebop. Patrick’s nickname turns out to be Mighty Mouse. He soon learns that Southeast Asia is a far cry from Boston, and, under constant assault by the North Vietnamese, he is at first overwhelmed, thinking that he’s made a terrible mistake.
Before Patrick left, his dad gave him a journal and asked him to write about his experiences in it. Confronted with the oppressive heat, dense jungles, and an enemy that is everywhere, can Patrick ever find a way to deal with the harsh realities that he faces on the battlefield. How does he react with his comrades? And will he make it home again? If one wants a fictional account that brings Vietnam and the battle of Khe Sanh to vivid life through the smells, tastes, sounds, horrors, loneliness, and the friendships that are so much of the chaos called war, then this is it. There are references to smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, wanting whiskey, and getting drunk. In addition to some to some common euphemisms, it is said that “Marines mostly only use one word—and it’s really obscene.” Swearing and cussing are mentioned frequently, the “d” and “h” words appear quite often, the name “God” is used several times as an interjection, and some near vulgarisms (“pi**ed off,” “s.o.b.”) occur.
Also, a scene is described where some of the local Vietnamese women weren’t wearing shirts and others had their blouses unbuttoned. Patrick writes, “This is my kind of town.” It is interesting how different people reach almost opposite conclusions from the same book. One reader called it an “amazing story” in which “you feel as though you are there with Patrick as he serves his country proudly as a U.S. Marine.” However, another reviewer wrote that it “describes the illogical and fruitless struggle of our military in the Vietnam conflict.” Perhaps this simply demonstrates the ambiguity that still exists over America’s involvement in Vietnam. There is a companion diary that follows Patrick’s sister, Molly, showing her experiences while Patrick serves in Vietnam, and even when he returns home.