Day 1007: Perfume River

Cover for Perfume RiverYears ago I greatly enjoyed Robert Olen Butler’s A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain. This set of short stories about Vietnam and its aftermath was beautifully written.

It’s 24 years later, and Butler is still thinking about Vietnam. His newest novel is about how a family and a homeless man are all affected in their own ways by the war.

Robert Quinlan is a Vietnam veteran who at 70 is now a university history professor. All his life, he’s tried to please his father, and his military service was part of that effort. Despite his administrative position, he had to kill a man during the Tet offensive. He is still affected by the incident and has never spoken about it at home.

Shortly before he shipped out, Robert’s younger brother Jimmy fled to Canada as a draft dodger. Their father disowned him. Now their father has broken his hip, and their mother asks Robert to try to talk Jimmy into coming home.

The homeless man Bob is also affected by Vietnam because his father was a veteran. Growing up with his father’s PTSD has affected his mental health.

link to NetgalleyI read more than half of this novel, but I grew increasingly impatient with it. The novel is closely observed but maybe too closely. All of the characters seemed to be obsessively evaluating each other’s every little action. It moves excruciatingly slowly. I felt like this novel was bogged down in detail. So, I didn’t finish it, even though the writing was beautiful.

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