Foreword Reviews

A Soldier's Heart

The 3 Wars of Vietnam

Clarion Rating: 3 out of 5

A Soldier’s Heart is an affecting memoir about the traumas that war inflicts.

Raynold A. Gauvin’s memoir A Soldier’s Heart is about the trauma that followed his military service in Vietnam.

For Gauvin, the Vietnam War had a lasting impact. He’d grown up, somewhat shiftless, in Maine, and believed that enlisting for service as an X-ray technician would keep him away from combat. Instead, he was assigned to perform autopsies on fallen soldiers, and was asked to gather data for a wound study. Those harrowing experiences horrified him, haunting him for years afterward.

But before it arrives at Gauvin’s wartime experiences, the book covers his family history, too, including an extended reflection on the loss of his father when he was a teenager. It also shares details from his hometown, helping to convey the severing that occurred when his early life and strict Catholic upbringing were interrupted via his receipt of the portentous draft letter. His wartime accounts often remain as attentive to details as these early portions of the book—for instance, relaying the boisterousness of a Vietnamese market. Not all scenes are equally specific, though, and the book includes narrative jumps that represent long passages of time.

Eventually, the war and its procession of fallen soldiers took a psychological toll on Gauvin, shaking his faith and upending his worldview. He shares his experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder, too, including of brain fogs, horrifying dreams, dark moods, and instances of screaming rage. Though these accounts represent a shift in tone from the light jocularity of the book’s early portions, they remain sympathetic and accessible.

The book includes black-and-white photographs that complement its forthright memories and accounts of emotional turmoil. Gauvin also discusses the toll that his traumas took on others, including members of his family, for whom his outbursts ruined entire evenings. But the upset he caused for his children and his wife leads to another narrative shift: he recollects how she broached the topic of divorce, which convinced him to make a change. Afterwards, he chronicles his coping mechanisms, like deep breathing to manage his anxiety and the avoidance of stressors. These lead to a late epiphany, shown in thoughts about personal growth and healing. A final shift in the book broadens it beyond Gauvin’s own story to comment on the widespread nature of the trauma that soldiers endure.

A Soldier’s Heart is an affecting memoir about the traumas that war inflicts.

Reviewed by Joseph S. Pete

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the publisher will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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