Robert Wideman and Cara Lopez Lee - Unexpected Prisoner: Memoir of a Vietnam POW

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

22. Unexpected Prisoner: Memoir of a Vietnam POW by Robert Wideman and Cara Lopez Lee (2016)
Length: 343 pages 
Genre: Non-Fiction 
Started: 18 November 2016
Finished: 21 December 2016
Where did it come from? Many thanks to Samantha at Roger Charlie for sending me a copy of this book to read.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 25 October 2016
Why do I have it? I like non-fiction and Robert Wideman and Cara Lopez Lee are new authors for me.

Having spent the past three and a half years in the Navy, Lieutenant Robert Wideman was looking forward to returning to America after completing his tour of duty during the Vietnam War. The recent newlywed had big plans and dreams for his future, and was determined to put them into practice as soon as he came back home. With only twenty-seven days left in his tour of duty - on what should have been just another routine bombing run for him - Lieutenant Robert Wideman's plane is shot down and he crashes in a secluded village somewhere in North Vietnam. The date is May 6th, 1967.

His deepest fear is realized when he is captured and held as a Prisoner of War for the next six years. Although Robert endured the sort of treatment that makes people question humanity, physical torture was never his biggest problem. During his six years spent in captivity, Robert experienced first hand the pain that is orchestrated by other people: shocking instances of 'Man's inhumanity to Man', as well as the truthfulness behind Jean-Paul Sartre's words: 'Hell is other people.' 

Unexpected Prisoner by Robert Wideman and Cara Lopez Lee chronicles a POW's struggle with both enemies and comrades alike; his mistreatment by Vietnamese interrogators and his various dealings with American commanders. Robert Wideman's poignant and heartbreaking memoir further chronicles his personal struggle to maintain a firm hold on his dreams for the future in the face of such prolonged trauma. Ultimately, Robert must find a way to survive and to maintain a solid hold on the memories of his past life, his faltering dreams of the future, as well as his own personal sense of himself as a person.

I must admit that while I learned quite a lot about the Vietnam War in school, I was slightly surprised to learn just how much more of a vicious reputation the South Vietnamese soldiers had than the North Vietnamese. I realize that the Viet Cong - as the South Vietnamese allies of the North - had rightfully earned such a horrific reputation for brutality; but while the North Vietnamese soldiers were considered the enemy, they also seemed slightly less brutal in their treatment of prisoners of war.

In my opinion, this was a thoroughly thoughtful memoir and I truly felt for Mr. Wideman and everything he went through during his captivity. I also understand how hard it must have been for him to come back home and have to adjust to civilian life. To be perfectly honest, I found the story to be extraordinarily poignant and thought-provoking. Although I spent more time reading this book than I probably would have preferred, I would definitely give this book a solid A!

A! - (90-95%)

May you read well and often