by Bryce Courtenay
So many books make me cry, it's almost embarrassing, and a reason why I can't read certain books on public transport or in public! Harry Potter and the Half Blood Price is one such book, I get about half way through and I start to get teary because I know what's coming. Poor Dumbledore! But one book that had me in tears and really affected me was Smoky Joe's Cafe. This fairly short novel deals with an Australian Vietnam Vet's life after the war. Plagued by health and psychological problems since returning from the war, it is his wife and daughter who give him the strength to continue. When his daughter is diagnosed with leukemia and he doesn't have enough money for the expensive bone-marrow transplant he hatches a plan with eleven Vietnam vets friends and an ex-Viet Cong to save her life.
I've mentioned Bryce Courtenay before, I love his writing but even more I love that he tells the stories we so rarely hear about here in Australia. Everyone thinks of the Americans when they think of Vietnam, but we were there too, and our soldiers suffered greatly from being in a war they should never have been a part of. Vietnam vets returned to Australia and were spat on by passers-by on the street, they were excluded from the veteran day marches and the Government refused any form of counselling to deal with the torments of war and denied the health affects that plagued both Vietnam vets and their children. Bryce Courtenay addresses these issues by weaving them into a beautiful story of love, justice and forgiveness and it brings me to tears every time almost from the first page. That said this is also a hilarious book, it beautifully switches gears between being funny and sad and angry and thoughtful, rather than falling into the trap of becoming just another angry or over-emotional war novel. I highly recommend a trip down to the library to give it a read, or if you're in the states perhaps buy a copy and share it around with your friends, get some Aussie literature out there!