Book Review: A Destiny Of Memories, By D. Ramati
Many people think their lives would make a good novel. Few of them actually write them. David Ramati did. And he was right to do so. Not only is this period of his life worthy of recording for all times, he does so eloquently.
During Ramati’s return home on furlough from the Vietnam War he was supposed to have had time to reconnect with his mother for about a month. Instead, he came home to her funeral. Fresh from the killing fields in Vietnam, he had to cope with his mother’s murder at the hands of his step-father.
While the book needs to be re-edited for a number of distracting misspellings, the writing is evocative in its simplicity. In few words, the author paints pictures for the reader that require one to stop and reflect for a few moments. I found myself holding my breath at times, blown away by the images that came to me, sometimes against my will. The pictures of war are difficult and so real; the pictures of the homecoming are painful and so real; the pictures of an inner world in turmoil are so overwhelming and so real. There is a certain “disconnect” that dominates the atmosphere of the book. And it is that disconnect that shows what it is like for the individual who has endured chronic traumatic stress even after having been extricated from the stressful situation.
Here is how the book begins:
Everybody walks in the twilight of sanity at some time in their life, when forces beyond their control shape and mold the fabric of reality, bending the wills of small and unimportant people into accepting the abstract political goals and desires of the ruling few. There have always been men caught up in this dehumanizing process…trapped somewhere between opposing realities of life and death, truth and lies, light and dark. He was one of them.
There was nothing special about him, except maybe his unique serial number, USMC 2201072.
And here we have the story in a nutshell — twilight of sanity, forces beyond our control, small people caught up in a dehumanizing process, nothing special about him. Being trapped between life and death, truth and lies, light and dark is exactly this disconnect I mentioned above — being neither here nor there, feeling but not feeling, a vivid intensity in the inner world that drains substance from the outer world reality.
As we immerse ourselves in the developing story we see these themes play out in the different phases of the story — leaving Vietnam, landing in his hometown where the changed man confronts a changed domestic reality, attempting to reconnect with family and friends as the surprising nature of his reception challenges his understanding of both his part in a far-away war and of the very essence of his own country, coping with the emotional fall-out of having been in a situation that smashes one’s ideals and threatens one’s sense of self.
His mother had drawn a picture of him before he left for Vietnam and he:
couldn’t help wondering if she would still have loved the man he had become as much as she loved the boy he was in the picture. (page 46)
Of course he would never get to hear her answer. And he was left troubled with the equally unanswerable:
Why had they let her die when he was ten thousand miles away fighting for them? (page 47)
What was the point of going to protect America from afar, the idea of America, if he could not protect his own specific America that was flesh and blood?
This could be a book you pick up if you want to understand and be there for the soldier coming home for a short time before being sent back out to war, any war, or if you want to understand the veteran who is recognizable physically but is not the same person who set out.
And this could be a book you pick up just because you want to enjoy good literature.
While this book is the first of a three-book series, it stands on its own. It is only 156 pages in length, yet it may take you longer to read than many 300-page books. It was certainly that way for me.
There is something about A Destiny of Memories that lingers between sittings and that lingers long after you have read the last sentence. Something about the indomitability of the human spirit. I think. I am not yet sure.
If you want to break through the disconnect after you will have finished reading this book, if you want an outlet for the feelings that the book hooks into but for which it does not provide release, then read the lyrics to James Taylor’s song, “Fire and Rain”. It will get the tears flowing and you will then have really got the book. Or, perhaps got it similar to the way that I did. Perhaps it reverberates differently for each and every one of us. Because, unlike the hero’s feeling that he is not unique, we all really are.
I am almost afraid to read the second book in the series when it will be published because sequels do not always match up to their promise. The current volume leaves one with a teaser but I can tolerate the not-knowing. Not every story has to have an answer, sometimes the lack of resolution stimulates reflection that is its own kind of satisfactory ending. I will let you know what I decide when Book 2 comes out.