One of the challenges I'm participating in this year is The War Through the Generations: Vietnam Challenge. Which has the option of participating in the July Read-a-long, where we'll be reading Paco's Story. Click here for a link if you is to join.
So far I'm really enjoying the novel, there's still a bit of a mystery behind Pac0, and I still can't figure out where this is going, or what is really going on in poor Paco's head. Here are this weeks discussion questions.
1. Do you think Paco is ready to rejoin the living and will he easily re-enter “normal” life?
I don’t think Paco has a choice, even if he isn’t ready to rejoin normal life, he has to anyways. For me its more of a question of whether “normal” life and society is ready for Paco, and others like him. And the answer is no. Paco is still scarred from the war, and I don’t just mean his physical injuries, but his psychological, now that he is “home,” he needs a means of survival and all he has is the clothes on his back and in his bag. No one (at least that we know of) has given him help, or steered him in the right direction. Which was one of the major issues of this war, that no one was prepared for the hoards of injured and recovering soldiers coming back home and needing a job and a place to live. There was no support for them, once they were well enough to leave the hospital they were on there own. So they had no choice but to rejoin normal life, even if they weren’t ready, and worst of all real life wasn’t ready for them. So they’re like a floater in the middle. Which I think Paco is display, and the author has portrayed perfectly. Normal life went on while he was away, and it is still going on when he comes back, but isn’t ready for him
2. How do you think the lively atmosphere of Rita’s Tender Tap affects Paco?
It’s overwhelming for him, as I said above, I don’t think he was ready to see that America is still living the way they are, when he has just come from war, and they can still joke and carry on like nothing has happened, when he has lost so much. I think part of him died in Vietnam, so seeing such a lively crowd when he’s barely there himself is shocking.
3. Do you think Heinemann made the right choice in narrator, or do you believe Paco should be telling his own story?
I have two theories of who the narrator is, one a ghost or two, Paco himself, who has detached a part of himself, from the rest of him. Either way, I think this narrator, whoever it is, is a perfect choice. I think we’d see a very different version of things if it were told by Paco in the first person or in any other way. To me the way the narrator is telling the story make it feel more believable, and makes the characters, especially Paco more real.
4. Do you think the side stories about the medic who found Paco, the bus driver, and Mr. Elliot, etc., add to the narrative or take too much attention away from Paco, who seems to hide in the background during these asides?
I’m on the fence on this one. On one hand, I want the story to concentrate more on Paco, I want to dig deeper into his story, so when it gets sidetracked from him I am disappointed. With that being said, I think it adds something to his character, because all of these characters we get to see a bit of a side story of, have a similar characteristic to Paco, which is they are all lost outsiders, trying to live life, all of which have had something significant affect them and bring them to where they are now, so I think it helps build on how Paco must feel like an outsider, who no one truly understands his circumstances or what happened to him.
5. How do you feel about Paco at this point in the book?
I wouldn’t say he’s a favourite character, but he is one I enjoy reading about. I find the mystery behind him and his circumstance intriguing and I want to find out more about him. I think there’s more to Paco then he’s letting on. I still have one theory, and I’m not sure if I’m right or not, but I’m anxious in reading more to find out if I’m right