In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of the Lost War by Tobias Wolff – A Book Review

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it-if you are not reading Tobias Wolff you are only cheating yourself.  The man simply does not write anything less than absolutely mesmerizing.  I assure you, that is not an exaggeration.

This latest work of Wolff’s I’ve read is called In Pharaoh’s Army.  It is a memoir offering us what lead to his taking part in the Vietnam War, his actual tour, and then the aftermath.  Now having read all of Wolff’s work, I purposefully saved this one for last because I mistakenly believed I’d like it the least. 

I loved this book.  Those of us born after the war have a notion of what Vietnam was like thanks to Hollywood movies, but Wolff gives us a totally different perspective, though no less horrific.  Wolff’s memoir deals with the one thing nobody likes to talk about too much-fear.  He was afraid to go.  He was afraid while he was there.  And when he got back, he was afraid of what he’d become.  Wolff is not a weak man, you’ll gather that from his recounts, he simply does not bother to hide the fact that he was counting down the minutes until he got home, and he just wanted to stay alive.

Each of Wolff’s chapters are like mini-stories, and they each offer the hilarity, absurdity, and sometimes tragedy of his life during that time.  I was surprised at how much of the book is spent leading up to his deployment and then his eventual return.  I’d say only half of the book actually deals with his actual time in Vietnam. 

As I’ve said, I’ve never experienced anything like this book and I completely recommend you read it if you are interested in either Wolff himself, the Vietnam War, or in the form and style of a masterly rendered memoir.

Please, do us both a favor-read something by Tobias Wolff.