Wendy Adair’s first novel, The Broken Hallelujah (Bungalow Books, 370 pp. $26.99, hardcover; $16.95, paper; $5.99, Kindle), is a believable, enjoyable book divided into two stories that come together at the end.
One story is set in 1969 during the war in Vietnam and the other in 2019 in Texas. That’s where Robin Carter, a thirty-year-old woman, is trying to discover what happened to her grandfather that led to be listed as Missing in Action in the war.
Robin, recently divorced, has moved in with her grandmother, who may be dealing with early-onset Alzheimer’s. One afternoon UPS delivers a package from the government—her grandfather’s Army footlocker. Inside it are uniforms, blankets, small boxes, papers, letters, and photos. What immediately captures Robin’s attention are dozens of pocket-sized notebooks filled with her grandfather’s jottings.
“I’m wondering what happened to him,” she says to her grandmother. “Where’s this stuff been all this time? Why was it sent here now?” She reads the journals, along with a small batch of letters that her grandmother had never shown her, and that’s how we learn parts of her grandfather’s story.
Robin then reaches out to veterans groups and government agencies to try to help her understand what she’s reading. She discovers a formerly classified investigation of an incident in which several men were killed and her grandfather went missing. There are hints of illicit drug use, forced sexual activities with under-aged females, and some sort of massacre carried out by Americans.
I enjoyed the moment when, engrossed in reading about her grandfather in Vietnam, Robin says to her grandmother, “It doesn’t mean anything” about a health issue, thereby using her own form of a common phrase GIs used during the war.
With this small anecdote I had no doubt that that this determined young woman was not going to give up until she solved this mystery, and was on the way to reviving her grandfather’s good name.
I admire writers who had no personal experiences with the Vietnam War who spend the time and effort writing creatively about it. Through research and a desire to tell a good story Wendy Adair has produced this well-crafted Vietnam War-heavy novel. For others who may have the same interest, she has done a great job showing them the way.