Tag Archives: memoir

Book Review: Unexpected Prisoner – Memoir of a Vietnam POW

unexpected-prisonerUnexpected Prisoner – Memoir of a Vietnam POW

By Robert Wideman & Cara Lopez Lee

What were you doing when you were twenty-three? Were you in college? Working a full time job? Robert Wideman (Bob) was flying a Navy bomber over Vietnam.

Then his plane was hit. He did what he was trained to do, trying to gain control, then eject to safety. More accurately, he was alive, but not exactly safe. Bob was immediately captured, and began what would turn into six long years in North Vietnam as a POW.

His experiences were often difficult to read, his fear of the unknown at first, and then the fear of the known. Each time he was pulled from his cell to go to be interrogated he might be tortured or asked to do something to turn on other prisoners. Some of the guards treated the prisoners better than others, but there was always the chance of being told to kneel on the concrete floors for hours or far worse.

Many of the prisoners had injuries from their plane crashing in the jungle or from overzealous questioning by some of the harsher prison commanders. But the prisoners banded together to help each other in most incidents. But, like any group of people that don’t necessarily choose to live together, some of the prisoners didn’t get along with other prisoners. Personalities clashed sometimes to the point of fights.

What I found very interesting was Bob’s take on fear. He said a person cannot live in a constant state of fear – so eventually you can sleep through bombings nearby and drive out thoughts of what might happen until it actually does. I believe this was what helped him and some of his other comrades through the long years of captivity when others did not fare as well.

I am not suggesting his time as a POW did not affect him, but maybe not as much as other prisoners that lived in constant fear.. He left Vietnam in March 1973, a very different man than the one that was shot from the sky in 1967. In many ways he was not the man he would have been if he had done his tour during the war and gone home to his wife. But no one can say how experiences, good and bad, affect the rest of their life. Certainly these experiences season our judgment and reaction to situations, but our attitude also plays a big part.

In the afterword to his book, Bob tells the readers his opinions on war in general. He doesn’t appear to be a bitter man as many would have living through his experience. He felt he was treated more humanely than some of the other prisoners, but doesn’t minimize the experience of other POWs that had much worse treatment while imprisoned.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Book Review Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor’s Story – A Gripping True Crime Book

Anatomy of a Kidnapping,  Anatomy of a KidnappingA Doctor’s Story

By Steven L. Berk M.D.

248 pages

Berk begins the fascinating account of his own kidnapping with the theory of why the agitated gun toting kidnapper did not kill him. He feels his medical history and time he spent with patients and in hospitals may have given him some tools to fall back on when he faced death at the hands of an unstable, drug addicted man. He mentions this in an almost casual way, not in arrogance, but more puzzlement. He is thankful for living through his ordeal, but doesn’t have any doubts that it could have gone bad in an instant.

The story is told in four intertwined parts. Berg gives the reader an insight to a young doctor’s life by sharing true events and encounters he had with great patients and odd patients. He doesn’t pull any punches or expound as to his greatness. He is frank and honest when telling of mistakes he made when treating some of the cases throughout his career. Everyone makes mistakes, but when doctors do, it can mean someone dies.

We follow his life through the hospitals he’s worked in up to his current assignment in Texas. From Arizona to Boston then to Amarillo, TX Berk keeps learning and growing as a doctor. He always wanted to become a missionary doctor, but during his residency at Boston City Hospital he began to realize he really wanted to focus on academic medicine. He also became interested in infectious disease and clinical research.

When a  medical school classmate asked him to serve as the chairman of the advisory board of an Amarillo medical school, Berk agreed. He loved the challenge and the goals of Texas Tech, and felt the he could help. With his leadership, the campus grew and improved. Berk did the same. He moved his family to Amarillo and settled in to a rewarding career.

The fateful morning in March 2005 was like any other. Like any other incident of this magnitude, he could look back and say he should have done something differently and it never would have happened. Life is like that, one little pebble can begin a landslide. Seeing it from the doctor’s perspective is haunting, knowing his fear for his family and his life on that Sunday morning puts the reader in the passenger seat of the car with him.

he third part of the story we hear along the way is that of the kidnapper. Jack Lindsey Jordan was born to a wealthy TX family, but had a frightful temper as he grew older. He had spent 10 years in prison on a felony charge just before the kidnapping. We see the series of events that led up to kidnapping unfold as the book progresses.

The last part to weave throughout the chapters is the actual court proceedings as documented from the trial. So you know in the beginning that Berk has been kidnapped, Jordan is caught and goes to trial. It is fascinating to read the account from the victim’s perspective.

Berk acknowledges that in the end, life is just not fair sometimes. He questions why he was not harmed during his ordeal and other people are shot. There are no answers, only speculations and luck.

This memoir reads like a fast paced fiction novel by a New York Times best-selling author. Berk’s ability to bring all four parts of this story – his history, the kidnapping, the kidnapper’s history as well as the court documents together in a page-turning novel makes this book a must-read.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

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Fantastical Tales of Bears, Beer and Hemophlilia: Eyes of a Child/Wisdom of an Adult

Fantastical Tales of Bears, Beer and HemophiliaFantastical

By Marija Bulatovic

100 pages

Fantastical is a peek into Marija Bulatovic’s head seeing memories of her childhood unfold. She writes of her grandparents, parents and neighbors through the eyes of a child with the wisdom of an adult. Her tales of Yugoslavia in the 1980’s are not set up as a traditional novel. The fourteen chapters are in the form of short essays snapshots of times, places and people of Bulatovic’s youth. Many have photos, enriching the experience of stories that are odd, touching and quirky.

My plan was to tell you about one or two of my favorites. Looking at the table of contents, it was impossible to narrow it down. So I’ll give you a sentence on each.

Hanging at the Day Care:  Does saving someone’s life really save them?

Friday Mornings: From Farm to table, her grandparents fed their family with food and love.

Wild Strawberry Jelly: Kids are kids no matter where they live.

Blood-Stained Cigarettes: Stairways of her building hold secrets, Bulatovic searches for the truth.

Puddle Under My Chair: A grandfather’s love is unconditional.

Gypsy Magic: Gypsies and bears – enough said!

Keeping the House in Order: Her grandparents liked order in their household – but sometimes too much!

The Angel of Syphilis: Princesses or hookers – you decide.

The Suicide Cult: Crazy, scary things happen in everyone’s life.

Stranger in the Bed: Visiting relatives can be challenging.

Hotdogs and Hemophilia: Forget the nitrates in hotdogs; Bulatovic has to worry about them causing hemophilia.

The Engagement: Men and sports can really get under the skin of the women that love them.

Whose Sit Is It Anyway? This essay made me laugh out loud.

Postscript: To quote the author, “…life is much more than a sum of mundane survival activities.”

This is a great change of pace, from the novels I normally read. The individual stories lend themselves to small snippets of reading if you don’t have time to read for very long. Keep it in the car to read while waiting for your kids to come out of school, or while waiting for an appointment.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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