His Last Mission
by William Clifford Brown

"His hands were unclean… he knew he had baggage that he might never get rid of."

The duality of Will Brandon’s life in 1968 is starkly represented by the class reunion he plans to attend the same week he returns from fighting in the Vietnam War. The realities of war and memories of childhood flood Will as he flies home to Missouri. Brown effectively renders the bonds of boyhood as Will thinks back on the life he is returning to after experiencing the atrocities of war. Reunited with his lost love, Will seems determined to leave the war behind until he is called back into service for one final mission.

With vivid writing that captures the jungles of Vietnam and small-town America, this book is the story of one soldier’s journey returning home from war. The flashback scenes to Will’s childhood are pleasantly nostalgic and tinged with lost innocence in the aftermath of Vietnam. The strong storytelling arc captures boyhood and the startling transformation of young men wrought by war.

Brown’s semi-autobiographical novel captures military operations in candid detail from logistics and tactics to the psychological toll and inner conflict of soldiers. The intricacies of Will’s life tell the soldier’s conflicted tale of heroics and honor along with the sometimes impossible choices and horrific violence. In a cathartic scene, Will shares the details of a violent mission with Mary Ann and Petey, his childhood friends, and in doing so releases the burden and begins to see a way forward from the war in Vietnam to peacetime at home. With this, Brown solidifies the universal healing power of telling our stories and our histories, both the individual and the collective. Will seems committed to the reflection and contemplation needed upon returning from battle and marking the milestones from boyhood to manhood.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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