January 4, 2010
When Beverly Gologorsky’s powerfully written and beautiful novel, The Things We Do To Make It Home, was first released in 1999, most U.S. residents weren’t thinking about war. The Vietnam conflict had ended decades earlier, the Cold War was over, and for at least a fraction of a minute, world peace seemed possible. Then 9-11 happened, and a world without armed conflict became the stuff of pipe dreams. In short order the U.S. was involved in two wars, fighting what many see as losing battles against terrorism.
This makes the re-release of Gologorsky’s novel especially important. Unlike war stories that focus only on the soldiers’ experiences, The Things We Do To Make It Home includes the lovers and children of numerous warriors—people who have no choice but to grapple with the physical and psychological aftereffects of military life when their loved ones return to civilian life. It’s gripping material, poetically rendered. And, while Gologorsky’s protagonists are exclusively male Vietnam vets, the scenes she conjures will undoubtedly resonate with the family and friends of soldiers now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At no point does Gologorsky offer judgments about the efficacy of the Vietnam War. Instead, in eight chapters, we meet characters like Sarajo, who at age 16 wants nothing to do with her now-homeless dad, but who finds herself inexplicably drawn to a photography teacher who spends his days photographing un-domiciled veterans. It’s like a case study in a psychology text, but far more wrenching… It’s a book that sticks with you, literally bringing home the realities of war and vividly conveying the human toll of violence and aggression.