Church uses her background as a Vietnam-era veteran to lend rich detail to the story’s military milieu. She does a fine job of describing the air war, with its mix of terror and tedium, and proves equally adept at the civilian side, showing how the military community takes care of its own: A Marine guard promises to escort the missing Jolie home "with full military honors." The large cast of characters intersect through multiple plots, which may prove hard to follow for readers not already familiar with the series, but the individual members of the extended Cooper family are vividly wrought.
This story functions best as a study of family conflict, where everyone has competing loyalties. Especially intense is the connection between Jolie, her estranged mother, and her father. Byron's wife, Joan, comes across with great pathos, trying to cope with a distant husband, her own child, and a difficult stepdaughter. The addition of Byron's brother Laury, a retired sergeant struggling with the family farm, and Cooper cousin Lt. Robin Haas, with her own poignant romance, fully flesh out the complex story. Readers will be absorbed to the end, hoping this troubled but sympathetic family finds peace.
Takeaway: A must for fans of family drama, who will revel in triumph and tragedy during a fraught period in U.S. history.
Great for fans of: Siobhan Fallon, Colleen McCullough
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A-
Must read 🏆
For those of us who went through the Vietnam War, this is a must-read book, containing intrigue and confusion we experienced.
Head First is the second novel in the Cooper Quartet, the story of a military family set against the tumult of the Vietnam Era. It is December 1972, President Nixon has ordered carpet bombing of Vietnam, and public opinion has turned sharply against the war.
For Jolie Minotier the stakes couldn't be higher, adrift in the town where her mother, terrorist Chloe Minotier, abandoned her, fearful her mother will resurface, rejected by her father, she does the one thing she can think to do---run. But she doesn’t anticipate being kidnapped or that her father, now CDR Byron Cooper, her uncle, Laury Cooper, or her aunt, LT Robin Haas, will care. But they do. Sufficiently to endanger their lives and careers in the rush to find her.
Jolie’s disappearance sets off a chain of events from kidnapping, to heroin smuggling, to unsanctioned insertion into Vietnam that will change the landscape of the Cooper family forever.
The Cooper Quartet begins with the novel Dead Legend.
As a member of the Baby Boom generation and someone who lived through the violent, confusing times of the Vietnam war, I found this book compelling and couldn't put it down. Not only are the characters real, but the situations in which they find themselves--whether family turmoil or related to the war itself--come alive through the writing.
The author carefully weaves believable family situations creating intrigue and tension, and even involves the weather in this novel. I was also impressed with this author's knowledge of how the military works.
The reader is first introduced to teenager Jolie, whose father and mother are divorced. She's living with her pregnant stepmother, Joan, and, in typical teenager fashion, she's giving her stepmother a hard time. She'd rather be living with her uncle Laury in Michigan, but that's another story. She's confused, trying to find her French mother, who's got direct connections to the French who were involved in Vietnam prior to U.S.military involvement, and it takes off from there.
Meanwhile, her father's deployed overseas, and her uncle (in Michigan) is having issues of his own, not the least of which is guilt over a local man who comes home in a box after being killed in Vietnam. He feels responsible for this man's death in some ways because he didn't talk him out of a second tour.
Add to this the world situation--trying to get the United States into the Paris peace talks, with the undercurrent of the drug trade--and it makes for a novel of international intrigue in which even the characters themselves don't realize they're involved.
For people who weren't alive then, 1972 marked a time when the Vietnam war was in wind-down mode, when even military veterans were asking why this country had been involved. Vietnam Veterans Against the War became an active organization. Even the pro-military Coopers in this novel see things that bring them to ask similar questions. President Richard Nixon was losing his power and headed toward the Watergate scandal and ultimate resignation. This novel capture that essence, that turmoil, that confusion which those of us who were alive then experienced. As historical fiction, Head First is accurate; as a novel, it's moving, intriguing and a successful portrait of a family living, trying to survive, during extremely trying times, under extraordinary circumstances.
After a 40-year career in public relations/marketing/media relations, I wrote my first novel, "Empty Seats," a coming-of-age book with baseball as the backdrop. This award-winning debut novel is appropriate for young adults as well as people of all ages and has received excellent reviews on Amazon.