American Horse by William Panzarella

In American Horse (366 pp., 24.95) author William Panzarella use the life story of a fictional character, Frank Keller, to tell the story of America from the Great Depression through World War II in Europe, the Cold War, and the Korean War, after which Frank’s son, Thomas, goes off to fight and die with the 1st Cav in the Vietnam War. Frank descends into the hell of alcoholism, loses his chain of hardware stores, his wife and daughter, his self-respect, and ends up serving time in jail. The novel details his long climb back from these depths to redemption of a sort.

Lots of bad things are said in this book about hippies, anti-war protestors, and recreational drug users. Much alcohol is consumed by World War II vets.

The author also alleges that the U. S. chose to leave behind many POWs in Vietnam when we withdrew, leaving the South Vietnamese to do their best without American troops and money. The author also alleges that it was commonplace for returning soldiers to be reviled and spat upon by war protestors and hippies. It’s that kind of a book.

The novel is handsomely designed, but poorly edited and proofread, so some of it is rough-going for a sensitive reader. A further hindrance to this reader was the author’s use of words that often stopped me in my tracks, as I had to look them up or scratch my head to figure out why they were there.  One example of this was the word “pleonasm.”  I learned something when I looked it up, but nothing I felt I needed to know.

The author’s website is http://www.williampanzarella.com

—David Willson