Of Rice and Men: A Novel of Vietnam

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Presidio Press/Ballantine Books, 2006 - Fiction - 355 pages
2 Reviews
Spreading democracy takes more than cutting-edge military hardware. Winning the hearts and minds of a troubled nation is a special mission we give to bewildered young soldiers who can’t speak the native language, don’t know the customs, can’t tell friends from enemies, and–in this wonderfully outrageous Iraq-era novel about Vietnam–wonder why they have to risk their lives spraying peanut plants, inoculating pigs, and hauling miracle rice seed for Ho Chi Minh.

Brash, eye-opening, and surprisingly comic, Of Rice and Men displays the same irreverent spirit as the black-comedy classics Catch-22 and MASH–as it chronicles the American Army’s little known “Civil Affairs” soldiers who courageously roam hostile war zones, not to kill or to destroy, but to build, to feed, and to heal. Unprepared, uncertain, and naive, they find it impossible to make the skeptical population fall in love with them.

But it’s thrilling to watch them try.

Among the unforgettable characters: Guy Lopaca, an inept Army-trained interpreter who can barely say “I can’t speak Vietnamese” in Vietnamese, but has no trouble chatting with stray dogs and water buffalo. Guy’s friends include “Virgin Mary” Crocker, a pragmatic nurse earning a fortune spending nights with homesick soldiers; Paul Gianelli, a heroic builder of medical clinics who doesn’t want to be remembered badly, so he never goes home; and Tyler DeMudge, whose cure for every problem is a chilly martini, a patch of shade, and the theory that every bad event in life is “good training” for enduring it again.

Pricelessly funny, disarming, thought-provoking, as fresh as the morning headlines, and bursting with humor, affection, and pride, Of Rice and Men is a sincere tribute to those young men and women, thrust into our hearts-and-minds wars, who try to do absolute good in a hopeless situation.

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OF RICE AND MEN: A Novel of Vietnam

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A deeply-felt, brilliantly written comedy about…the Vietnam War.This debut novel from Galli (Rescuing Jeffrey, 2000) centers on a pair of protagonists: both in their early 20's, both well educated ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - picardyrose - LibraryThing

Humorous aubiographical tale of a soldier sent as a translator who realized after he got there that he didn't actually speak Vietnamese. Yet it was his job to persuade the villagers to plant the new, more productive rice, which tasted terrible. Read full review

Contents

Crash Landing
3
Why Are We Here?
22
A Nice Place to Be Massacred
36
Copyright

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About the author (2006)

Richard Galli peels back decades of cynicism and shows us that within the young Americans we send to war there sometimes beat gentle, optimistic, hilarious hearts. A former Army interpreter, journalist, and then a lawyer for nearly thirty years, he reduced his law practice to help care for his son, who was paralyzed in a swimming accident on the Fourth of July, 1998. His memoir, Rescuing Jeffrey, was hailed as “a huge story . . . unflinchingly told” by The New York Times Book Review. Galli lives with his family in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

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