Arrow Moon by James V. Ventresco

James V. Ventresco’s Arrow Moon: Reflections of the Sixties (CreateSpace, 288 pp., $11.50, paper) follows four college friends as they deal with the challenges of the sixties. Ventresco is enlisted in the Army to avoid being drafted. He served in Vietnam and received the Bronze Star, an Army Commendation Medal, and a Combat Infantryman Badge.

The four main characters seem to be there for every important event of the 1960s. And if they are not actually present, it is made clear that the events had a mighty impact on them. Probably the event that is presented most stirringly, and one that most of them experienced, is the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Matt Santorri seems destined for Vietnam, but the book quits before he gets there. I’d like to read a sequel in which he makes it to the war zone.

Dave, his slacker friend in college, never applies himself to his studies, so I thought he might get grabbed by the draft, but no such luck. He has bad eyes, and his trigger finger is damaged in Chicago by the police in the park.

AJ spends the novel busy making money selling rolling papers and marijuana. He already has served in the military, so he is home free as far as the Vietnam War is concerned.  Johnny, the boy from Texas, seems also headed for Vietnam at the end of the book.

Many of the minor characters have served in the Vietnam War or actually are there during the length of the book, so the novel has an important Vietnam War component. The war lurks on every page.

One character, for example, remarks, “he was sure the big capitalists and bankers were doing everything they could to keep the war going.”  Another says: “I’m really getting worried about that fucking Vietnam War.” He has reason to worry.

Iwo Jima gets a mention from a priest at the funeral of a Korean War veteran. The priest served as a chaplain during World War II and spent time with the Marines on Iwo.  “If Christ has wanted to remind us that there was a hell, Iwo Jima was his way of showing it,” he says. “Today we are sending our sons to Vietnam to fight godless communism. At what cost?”

I enjoyed this novel, but I believe it could have benefited from a few thousand more commas—not to mention more glue in the binding. By the time I finished it, I had a bundle of loose pages.

That being said, it is an enjoyable primer to the main events of the sixties and the impact they had on young men. I was a young man during that period, and most of the things covered in the book resonated with me.  If you missed the sixties, this would be a great place to start catching up.

—David Willson