The World Played Chess: Robert Dugoni
A powerful novel told in three separate timelines by one narrator whose experiences in the present, flashback to 1979 and then the Vietnam War. Vincent begins the journey in the present with his son about to finish high school and decide on college. Choosing the right one was not difficult as he received a scholarship for football as his best friend Chris did too. Finding a special journal that would flash us back to 1979 we get to understand his choices, his friendship with William the man he worked with in construction and his other friend Todd as Vincent, and the author take us on an emotional journey that leads us to both him and William during the Vietnam War.
Events take on different turns in each time, but Death is prominent in both. As we get to know Beau we learn about his friendship with Chris, how upset he was when they lost their most important game and what happens when he goes to his sister’s party and does not play, in the Jungle Games. Hearing Chris’s voice for the last time and then learning what happens to him takes more than must a toll on him and the anger and fear comes a loud and clear almost blaming himself for living. How does a father justify his feelings when he is relieved that his son is home and alive with him? Lives are at stake when William tells the truth about what happens to his Cruz who we meet throughout the novel in Vietnam and how he was the one that held things together for all the men.
Three young men each having their own intersection with life. William is a co-worker of Vincent when the was working in the summer in a construction job on the crew at 18. The journal mirrors the nightmares the William cannot forget as we relive them with him in the past. William journal alternates with Vincent’s present with his son going to college and explaining that his journey has just begun. How does anyone deal with the war and come back able to function?
Vincent is portrayed as a nice kid that is smart meeting William when a friend sends him in his direction for a job paying five dollars an hour, hard to pass it up. Becoming close friends and friends, handing out at night he gets to know him in diverse ways. Imagine doing dangerous work after drinking all night and doing things that would hamper your safety. This is about friendship, trust, loyalties, understanding, PTSD, struggling with death all around you in all three timelines until he Epilogue which explains whether the hurts and hearts healed from the battle wounds that others caused on each person. The inner turmoil that Vincent faces when he reads the final entry of the journal and has to fact his own fears for himself and his family.
The anger wells up in William when he’s headed for home after the tragedies he dealt with and more. People were going about life and all he wanted was to give them a wakeup call about the deaths of sons, young men and others dying in the bush. So many shipped homes in boxes. Chapter 25 is compelling and the final entry in the journal a confession. What really happened to Cruz is revealed and the torment he endured explained. Machine guns tore up the jungle. The company never stood a chance. What really happened to Charlie Company? Why did Cruz fear going home and did this have a connection with his fate?
Photos are at the heart of this dramatic ending as William took pictures of the dead and explains how they looked in detail. Pages 344-345 you won’t believe. Who is the young boy the author says haunted William?
The epilogue is compelling, and William leaves one last message for Vincent as he has much to reflect as each one still has a long way to go. Masterfully told and vividly depicted scenes in each timeline author Robert Dugoni takes readers in three separate highly charged journeys that intersect at a crossroads at the end.
Each person that engages in this story has his own way of expressing their fears, grief and dealings with death. Reading this novel is read it in three parts: the present in its entirety, 1979 in its entirety and then 1968 in its entirety and then the entire novel together to make sure that I got the parallels between each part. Throughout the novel you could tell that William was harboring a secret that needed to be told for him to go on with his life. In the end they all said that Death Followed them in different ways. A war that took so many lives, a war that allowed some to come home but would never forget what they endured, a war that would stay in the minds of those that suffered at the hands of the VC and more. This review is dedicated to all those that fought and gave up their lives for so many and to those that harbor the nightmares even today.
Fran Lewis Just reviews