Are you looking for a journey through lilting language and lush landscapes of the mind? Janette Byron Stone’s Please Write brings a new perspective to the Vietnam War through the distant eyes of a young woman’s coming of age. For America, Nam was a war that took place on the other side of the world; never touching our borders but scorching our eyes with daily images of the atrocities. It was a real-time movie script. Janette Byron Stone captures a slice of life unknown to the American audience.
Kings Cross, a rough and tumble inner-city locality in Sydney, Australia, was invaded by American troops who were flown there for R & R. Stone’s memoir-esque narrative (related through the eyes of Catherine her protagonist) tells of days spent waitressing in this notorious red-light and entertainment district and the ongoing connections she made with the American and Australian troops through the lost art of letter writing. Each letter punctuates the steppingstones that young men and women, regardless of cultural background, experience. She is able to relate the trials and tribulations of their lives with her own; a young woman touched by divorce and desperately trying to balance a maturing need to separate from her mother, yet, clinging to the traditions and morals dictated by her Granny. Please Write is revealing in its passion and insights into the dreams, aspirations, fears, and realities of the young men who steadily found their way to the Cross, escaping the nightmare of war and relishing in their good luck to have survived.
The war devoured our young men whole. It spat them out and sent them home irreparable and disfigured both physically and emotionally. These young men were seeking a semblance of the homey solace they knew stateside, as opposed to the raw sexual experiences other soldiers sought in the Asian destinations. Juxtaposed against the backstory of war, Catherine’s tales of succor, offering the unusually compassionate ear, certainly demonstrates for us what the world needed then, and still yearns for today, a dish of Granny’s comforting potato and gravy and larded leg of lamb. Food is the loving knot that ties generations.
Please Write leaves you with that balance between the bitter and the sweetness of life, that only a true master of the literary word can elicit. Having never been to the Cross or even Australia, Stones descriptive elements enable the reader to visualize the welcoming Aussie culture, mannerisms, and locales from King’s Cross to Wagga Wagga (where I have learned the crows fly backward). It is like a semi-sweet Swiss chocolate. You cannot just pop it in your mouth hoping that the moment of total dissipation will satiate; it is a good read, a love story with life, that must be savoured.