Jennifer and I had a hard time reviewing this book because we were both honored to read it when Lynn, like us, was in her first term at Seton Hill University. Tricia also read further drafts as Lynn’s critique partner in a later term. We have seen many revisions since then, particularly new beginnings as Lynn strove to develop her main character apart from her husband, on whom this story is based. Since others reading this book didn’t get the “insider” view that we did, at least not from the very beginning, we’ll try to be as objective as possible.
Firefight on Vietnam Brown Water
Al Lupo is a college football player who gets drafted during the Vietnam War. He joins the Navy and after training finds himself on a SWIFT boat in the waters near Vietnam. While serving, Al faces enemy fire, interpersonal conflicts with his fellow crew members, and living conditions void of nearly all creature comforts. He grows up tremendously while in the Navy, including learning his own self-worth and being able to look past his father’s gruff exterior to see that he’s finally earned his respect.
This book is targeted at young men, as the protagonist himself is only eighteen at the start of the book and twenty-two by the time he gets out of the Navy. It is a chilling reminder how young many soldiers and sailors are, and provides a role model for young men in terms of courage and doing one’s duty the best one can. Life also goes on at home for Al’s family, friends, and girlfriend, and Salsi does a good job showing how hard it can be to settle back into “regular life” after coming home from the front.
Firefight is not technically historical fiction because the Vietnam War did happen during Salsi’s lifetime. However, since she was not a member of a SWIFT crew, Salsi has done more than her share of research to create this richly-detailed setting, and it comes through in this book from start to finish. She also does a nice job with research on the East Asian setting, particularly when Al gets a week-long leave in Bangkok. That chapter provides a much-needed break for both Al and us of the conflict in the Mekong Delta and lets us see this part of the world as a place worth visiting.