A simple yet poignant story of a twelve-year-old Army brat named Jamie. She admires her father, a Colonel. She dreams of combat and service to country. As her brother departs for Vietnam, she gets “wound up tighter than a German clock. TJ was going to war… Just like we’d always dreamed of” (p 126).
Eager to hear details from the front lines, Jamie is disappointed when TJ sends undeveloped film with instructions that she develop it herself at the base Rec center. It is through her brother’s pictures and through relations with the Rec center guys, some who have already served in Vietnam, that Jamie comes to understand the reality of war.
I thought Jamie’s development was realistic. I never doubted her actions, words, or motivations. She spends much of her time hanging around GIs and it shows. She has that understanding of her parents that I arrived at during my early teen years:
My mother is a former Southern belle debutante, very flowery and chock-full of good manners, but she generally gets what she wants. Only she hardly ever comes right out and forces things to happen. She’s more subtle than that. (p. 78)
Dowell captures the language and attitude of the time without ever disassociating the reader.