James Hirsch recounts one of the great friendships of the twentieth century forged in one of the most horrific settings that century produced--a North Vietnamese POW camp its inmates called the Zoo. One prisoner, Fred Cherry, was a pioneering air force pilot and the first black officer captured by the North Vietnamese. The other, a young navy flier named Porter Halyburton, was a racist southerner who doubted that a black man could even be a pilot. Their captors threw them into the same fetid cell, believing that their antipathy toward each other would break them both. But Cherry and Halyburton overcame their initial suspicions and saved each other's lives. When Halyburton first saw him, Cherry was a wreck. One arm, damaged in his plane crash, hung uselessly at his side. He hadn't bathed in weeks, and he could barely walk. In his own mind, Cherry was steeling himself for death. Halyburton was also weakening, emotionally battered from the interrogations and isolation that his sheltered life had not prepared him for. He had to learn how to endure, or he would become one of the incoherent wraiths who haunted the Zoo. Halyburton and Cherry became legendary among fellow POWs for the singular friendship that enabled them to overcome prodigious suffering and unspeakable torture. Hirsch weaves through this account a surprising, sometimes shocking view of the toll these men's captivity took on their loved ones. While Cherry's family was sundered by his absence, Halyburton's bond with his wife, Marty, endured and deepened. We see her receive the news of her husband's death, and we share her mingled elation and fear when she later learns that he is in fact alive and imprisoned. We also witness her unlikely rise to a leading role in the battle to bring the POWs home. Often inspiring, sometimes heartbreaking, Two Souls Indivisible shows how trust and hope can cheat death, and how good people can achieve greatness in hellish circumstances.
Pages: 288 (hardcover)
Rating: 5 out of 10
Source: I borrowed the book from the library
I read Two Souls Indivisible by James Hirsch for a book club meeting at my local library. When I was reading the book, I thought the discussion would be interesting since many of the members lived through the Vietnam war. I thought the book was an interesting story of friendship and connection between two men. It reminded me that something wonderful can bloom in the worst circumstances.
In anticipation of our discussion, I was curious if comparisons would be made between the Vietnam war and the current wars. I also wanted to talk about the struggle to integrate the military as compared with the current demographics. After a few minutes of discussion, I was horrified and frustrated with the ignorant, racist comments people made to the point where I am not sure if I want to return! The meeting was good practice for me to speak up when I find comments objectionable. I feel thankful that I had the chance to be courageous, but I do not know if I want to get so upset when I go to a book club meeting.
Instead of a vigorous discussion of the book which brings up many interesting points and topics, I listened to a lot of ignorant bullshit. The quote which has stuck with me and continues to make my blood boil is: "Well not all Muslims are terrorists, but all the terrorist we have found are Muslims." I was also surprised that there was so much debate about whether or not you could be against the war and still support troops. My response to that is EMPHATICALLY yes! While I expect and appreciate that there was going to be a range of viewpoints on the war, I did not expect the classification to be as follows: You are a patriot if you believe in the war and a stupid hippie if you do not.
It is hard for me to write an objective review of the book because I keep thinking about the meeting and all the strong reactions I have to people's comments. I did speak up, but I wish that I had said more. I also have unresolved frustration with the meeting. What do you do if I you have a crappy experience at a book club meeting?
On another note, I am using this book to work towards completing the following challenge:
Global Reading Challenge: part of the book was set in Vietnam.