Odysseus In America
Combat Trauma and The Trials of Homecoming
By Dr. Jonathan Shay
From Publishers Weekly
It's not exactly a secret that those returning from war often have difficulties adjusting to the peaceful life at home. Nor is it a secret that hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans have had emotionally rocky homecomings. The main reasons Vietnam veterans have suffered disproportionately have been identified in many books. Shay (Achilles in Vietnam), a Tufts Medical School faculty member, serves as a Veterans Administration psychiatrist administering to emotionally troubled Vietnam veterans and offers his second study engaging the Homeric epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey, in order to describe and explain veterans' plight. Shay presents an amalgam of scholarly Homeric interpretation and case studies of maladjusted Vietnam veterans, arguing that leaders-from top policy makers to drill instructors-hold the key to preventing many psychological problems in the military. He advocates fostering a climate of community at the unit level by training and supporting competent, open-minded, ethical military leaders who have the full support of their superiors. While it's an intriguing argument, the case studies do not contribute to existing literature, and the tone of the book-which contains countless italicized words and phrases-comes off too often as hectoring or stridently didactic. Readers with a working knowledge of The Odyssey and a familiarity with the effects of PTSD among Americans who served in the Vietnam War may get the most out of this book, which could affect policy if it finds its way to upper echelons of command.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In this ambitious follow-up to Achilles in Vietnam, Dr. Jonathan Shay uses the Odyssey, the story of a soldier's homecoming, to illuminate the pitfalls that trap many veterans on the road back to civilian life. Seamlessly combining important psycho- logical work and brilliant literary interpretation with an impassioned plea to renovate American military institutions, Shay deepens our understanding of both the combat veteran's experience and one of the world's greatest classics.
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