Buffalo Boy and Geronimo: A Novel
The unique vision in Janko's Buffalo Boy and Geronimois the depiction of the Vietnam War as seen through the lens of a wounded but resilient nature as a Confucian society still rooted in the earth and the unbroken fabric of ancestors is pitted against a desensitized military high-tech culture. As critic Paul Pines noted, "The forces here that seek to conquer the landscape are those, which by implication, shatter the harmonious fabric of the natural world to create a pathology that is far deeper than the political stakes indicate-one that indeed may determine the future of the entire ecosphere." The two heroes of the book, Nguyen Luu Mong, the Vietnamese buffalo boy, and Antonio Lucio, the US Chicano medic (Geronimo), both have a deep respect for the natural world, and it is through their eyes that we witness the devastation of the natural world of which they are a part. Geronimo's unit is engaged in search and destroy missions (one of the villages destroyed is Mong's), and he becomes so appalled by the pain and death inflicted on animals and humans that at one point he abandons his unit and rushes ahead to drive the animals away from an impending firebombing. Eventually he deserts and finds his way back into the jungle. The young adolescent Mong loses his beloved buffalo in an early firefight and eventually sees his entire village destroyed, the survivors relocating deeper into Viet Cong territory. His is also a love story, and his marriage to Thien at the end of the novel is symbolic of the need for life to continue despite the devastation.
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Buffalo Boy and GeronimoUser Review - Book Verdict
Set in Vietnam during the war, this simple tale achieves depth through its language and naturalistic detail. A young Vietnamese boy named Mong tends his buffalo, works in rice paddies, and dreams of consummating his love for a local girl. American soldiers come and go, and bombings are a daily reality to be endured. One American soldier, a Mexican American medic called Conchola, passes through Mong's village with his platoon. When his close friend is killed by a trip wire bomb, Conchola begins a gradual descent into a primordial state of consciousness. He deserts his platoon and is eventually captured by Mong and his people, who are migrating to a safer area. They rope the captive Conchola to a tree alongside a dying woman, hoping that both will be sighted by a patrol helicopter and the woman's life will be saved. The novel presents an engaging and tragic human drama and delves deeply into the impact of the war on animals and the biosphere. Janko, himself a former medic in the Vietnam War, convincingly captures both the cynical dialog of American soldiers and the timeless rhythms of Vietnamese peasant life. This book deserves to enter the canon of masterly, penetrating works about this still controversial era. Recommended for most collections. - Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta
Review: Buffalo Boy and GeronimoUser Review - Goodreads
Great read on the effects of the Vietnam war, extending not only to the soldiers and civilians, but also the land of Viet Nam. James Janko is a featured author for our Book Reading with Swords to Plowshares on September 7th.