Winnie Smith is the author of AMERICAN DAUGHTER GONE TO WAR, a Simon & Schuster book.
Terse and telegraphic, Smith's style suits her subject: a year this army nurse spent caring for patients in the ICU, emergency and triage wards of a Saigon field hospital during the Vietnam War. Smith's story is almost unbearably gripping. The tenor and misery of the sick and wounded emerge vividly as she describes burn victims, amputees and the phantom pain felt by those with severed limbs. Primitive conditions, the tropical climate, stench, blood and constant danger all added to her occupational stress and exhaustion, which she relieved only through brief respites in local bars and hasty romances. After returning from three years of duty (1965-1968) to a family and a country torn by dissent, Smith was haunted by memories of Vietnam. Now 48, she has honored those memories in this book. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)
The remarkable thing about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the similarity of its effects on its victims. Captain Smith was under constant stress from witnessing injury and death as an army nurse in a post-operative ward near Saigon and later in Long Binh. When her tour was over she retreated into a semianesthetic fog of alcohol and work until her internal anguish forced her to choose between self-destruction and the painful process of healing. This memoir is an eloquent description of that journey. At one point, as she stands in the screened corner where hopeless cases are sent, a coworker stops by. `` `I come here, too,' she says quietly. `I hate them dying alone.' '' An excellent picture of both the medical role in the war and war's cruel effect on the healers.-- Mel D. Lane, Sacramento, Cal.