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Jerry Blanton
Bruised Purple Hearts: Ghosts of the Usa
It is the early sixties as Matt Conklin and his twin brother, Max, graduate from high school amid interesting yet chaotic times that include the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, and the rise of feminism, gay rights, and the use of psychedelic drugs. Matt and Max could not be more different in their views of war, civil rights, and the part physical chemistry plays within relationships. Matt is a romantic idealist who stands up to civil rights abuses and the atrocities of war. While pursuing his dream of becoming a writer, he crosses paths with bigots, women who want to marry him, antiwar radicals, drug dealers, and gay friends struggling for societal acceptance. After he becomes a teacher to the disadvantaged, Matt craves intellectual stimulation and experiments with drugs. But what no one knows is that the spiritually sensitive Matt is receiving visits from ghosts who ask things of him. As the years pass, will Matt emerge from his struggles determined to live his truth or resigned to live a life he never wanted? In this historical tale, a young man faces racial prejudice, homophobia, and mindless acceptance of the war as he soldiers through the sixties and seventies in the swamps of Florida.
Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Prose: 7 out of 10
Character/Execution: 7 out of 10
Overall: 7.00 out of 10


Plot: Bruised Purple Hearts addresses the complexities and contradictions of the 1960s era, as seen through the coming-of-age experiences of two brothers. Blanton’s narrative sharply addresses the personal and societal impacts of the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, psychedelics, the rise of feminism, and more. 

Prose: The author brings a sense of immediacy to many of the scenes through lively descriptions and interactions. Historical events serve as guideposts for the narrative, and the characters’ musings and active analysis of such events, is impactful. At moments, readers may crave more nuanced interpersonal connections between characters and feel that the writing is overcrowded with its myriad historical and cultural references.

Originality: Novels set during the tumultuous 1960s are frequent. Blanton takes on a lot and succeeds in capturing much of the zeitgeist of the era. The story’s largely understated supernatural element brings a unique angle to the narrative.

Character/Execution: The characters do not always shine as boldly as the historical events that unfold throughout the pages. Still, Blanton capably utilizes his protagonists and side characters to reflect the rapidly changing world around them.






Date Submitted: June 29, 2021