Mary Bernadette by John F. Bronzo

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The entirety of John F. Bronzo’s Mary Bernadette: Secrets of a Dallas Moon—A Young Vietnamese Girl’s Tale from the Grave About the Killing of JFK (Archway Publishing, 426 pp., $40.99, hardcover; $26.99, paper; $2.99, Kindle) is neatly summarized both in the long title and in this paragraph at the beginning of the book:

“Rooted in the 1963 Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) and taking place during the Vietnam War in 1971, this is an epic tale of patriotism and sacrifice and of love and intrigue, as seen by the backward glance of a young Vietnamese girl named Mary Bernadette, who was born on the day President Kennedy was assassinated and lived just long enough to see his other assassin—the second gunman on the grassy knoll—be captured.”

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used factiously. As Bronzo says, “Any resemblance to actual events or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.”

I’ve read many, many books that deal with the JFK assassination, and this is a worthy addition to the field. I’ve even written a couple of conjectural stories about the existence of a second assassin.  So I am familiar with that confused and nightmarish event.

Bronzo has given the interested reader an enjoyable novel to read, as well as plenty to think about. I recommend this book to those who never seem to get enough grist for the conspiracy mill that has been cranking out one crazy theory after the other for all these decades.

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John F. Bronzo

This novel does demand close, attentive reading, however, as the names of characters change throughout. The free and easy way the book moves through time and space can easily discombobulate the reader who needs a book to be strictly chronological and narrated by people who are alive and well.

We’re told that Lee Harvey Oswald was not “a silly little communist acting alone” in nut country, and that he was framed.

The book does occasionally intersect with the themes in other Vietnam War books, including the phrase that most irritates me, “baby killers.” It’s as if babies were treasured by the armies in previous wars. But babies died in all wars.

—David Willson

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