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Paco's Story

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  596 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
Paco Sullivan is the only man in Alpha Company to survive a cataclysmic Viet Cong attack on Fire Base Harriette in Vietnam. Everyone else is annihilated. When a medic finally rescues Paco almost two days later, he is waiting to die, flies and maggots covering his burnt, shattered body. He winds up back in the US with his legs full of pins, daily rations of Librium and Vali ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 12th 2005 by Vintage (first published 1986)
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The Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienMatterhorn by Karl MarlantesDispatches by Michael HerrA Rumor Of War by Philip CaputoThe Quiet American by Graham Greene
Best Literature About the Vietnam War
24th out of 218 books — 391 voters
Sophie's Choice by William StyronThe Shipping News by Annie ProulxThe Corrections by Jonathan FranzenInvisible Man by Ralph EllisonThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
National Book Award Winners
76th out of 103 books — 143 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,740)
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Rob
Aug 27, 2007 Rob rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
what an awful piece of writing. the voice is the most irritating i have ever encountered. on the same page, the tone careens back and forth between pretentious pseudo-literary over-writing (words like "lilting" and "echo-ous", endless strings of adjectives, dumb similes, and lists of meaningless descriptive details) and larry-the-cable-guy haw haw blather (bangin pussy, smokin dope, gettin some, know-it-all winking nonchalance). and there is no doubt that it is supposed to be a single voice. the ...more
Laura
Mar 18, 2008 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book written by an old graduate school instructor of mine (an instructor whose last class meeting of the quarter nearly got all of us drunk graduate students kicked out of school and arrested [as it turned out, only one of us got arrested (not me) and we all got kicked off of campus. But that's a story for another day, as Larry would say]). My bias aside, however, it's a terrific war (post-war) story told by a ghost. Literally.
Sheehan
Started out really liking (4stars) the book, which follows a lone surviving vet in his returning travails to the States, but waned to just liking it (3stars) as the resolution of the story sort of deflated the first 2/3rds storyline. Most of the characters kind of monologue in a not entirely plausible way, but the topics, time frame and perspective of the returning vet and the people he met, were very interesting, and a bit novel from other things I have read.

I had initially thought this book ri
...more
Landon M
Mar 28, 2015 Landon M rated it it was amazing
Loved sharing this amazing classic.
Dennis Henn
Dec 03, 2009 Dennis Henn rated it did not like it
National Book Award winner? The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, "Exceptional for its bleak, shared unexceptional reality." It was bleak. Eliminate the gratuitous profanity and the book shrinks by a third. Exceptional for its unexceptional reality. An odd statement. Maybe I didn't get the book. I have read much better books on Vietnam.
Sarah Funke
Nov 20, 2010 Sarah Funke rated it liked it
It's no "The Things They Carried," but then it's not trying to be. Depressing but good.
Dan
Aug 08, 2008 Dan rated it really liked it
How does one write in such a way that every sentence is poetry...?
Serena
Jul 27, 2010 Serena rated it it was amazing
Paco's Story by Larry Heinemann chronicles the war experiences of Paco, the only surviving soldier of the Fire Base Harriette massacre from Alpha Company. The narrative is unusual in that Paco does not tell his own story of his survival or his recovery and ultimate return to the United States from the Vietnam War. Though readers get to know Paco through the eyes of others and his nightmares, Paco is a vivid and lost character in search of peace.

"Paco is in constant motion, trying to get settled
...more
Audrey-Uyen Hoang
Jul 13, 2012 Audrey-Uyen Hoang rated it really liked it
Paco's story is written with graphic, lyrical language that brings his horrific war memories, and his trying to fit in as a veteran of a war that nobody really understood, to life. Heinemann writes in an unusual, dream-like way that just draws the reader in, until they feel like they are feeling what Paco feels. He writes of Paco's seemingly mundane experiences and transforms them into something cathartic.

Paco's story has some clever conceits: there is the narrator, who only reveals himself slow
...more
James
Paco’s Story is the simple tale of a soldier who is grievously wounded during the Vietnam War. Heinemann begins the novel by showing us Paco’s horrific physical injuries, but really the book is about the equally debilitating mental injuries he carries with him. The writer uses the blunt simple speech of the soldier and small town denizens of Boone, Texas to great effect. His prose is lean and hard. The plot of the story is incredibly simple and is designed not to get in the way of one of the nov ...more
Wendy
Jan 01, 2011 Wendy rated it really liked it
In Larry Heineman's Paco's Story, Paco was the only surviving soldier after a raid that decimated his unit. With both physical and mental scars, Paco re-enters society, going through the motions of life. Readers are offered a glimpse at how a soldier from that war was treated upon his return, both with disdain and occasional pride. We get an inside look at the horrors of war, and Heineman pulls no punches in describing the war in brutal and honest terms.

Paco's Story began strong, one of those bo
...more
Lois
Sep 05, 2008 Lois rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: military veterans,Vietnam vets,anyone interested in learning more about Vietnam,
Paco's Story is about young Paco Sullivan. Sole survivor of his unit's ambush, he has returned to the States to look for work. Left with painful injuries that require powerful painkillers every day, Paco encounters both curiousity and discrimination from the locals in the small town he ends up in.

Paco's story is written with graphic, lyrical language that brings his horrific war memories, and his trying to fit in as a veteran of a war that nobody really understood, to life. Heinemann writes in
...more
Thoa KÒi
Jan 21, 2015 Thoa KÒi rated it liked it
Đầu tiên, xét về trang bìa thì bìa gốc có vẻ hấp dẫn, có sức hút hơn với độc giả để rút tiền ra mua sách so với sách được dịch và xuất bản tại VN.
Và bìa sau của sách thì được giới thiệu đây là tác phẩm đạt giải thưởng.
Thứ nữa để bỏ tiền ra mua là bởi đây là cuốn sách hiếm hoi mà tôi được đọc viết về chiến tranh VN dưới góc nhìn của 1 lính Mỹ bình thường, không phải một vị quân sự, vị tướng hay đại loại thế nào đó.
Khá khó để đọc tác phẩm ở nửa đầu. Đối với tôi nó khá là rời rạc với câu chuyện của
...more
Rachael
Jun 18, 2008 Rachael rated it it was amazing
the author was my creative writing professor at texas a&m & he was amazing. i was a bit desensitized to the book, as he had told our class about a few of the more gruesome scenes, so i wasn't as offended by the audacities of war that the american soldiers committed against the vietnamese, particularly the women. larry is a great writer. he also liked me a lot & gave me a's, so that helps. he really liked my hair.
Johnny
Mar 02, 2008 Johnny rated it it was amazing
Strangely hard to find even as we are again mired in a horrible, endless, an increasingly pointless war, "Paco's Story" represents another piece of the Vietnam literature canon, along with the works of Fussell, O'Brien, and other. The opening vignette could be a story in itself and propels the unique narrative within the story. Someday this novel will receive its due
Ferris
Dec 16, 2009 Ferris rated it really liked it
Audiobook...........Stark, disturbing, evocative..........Try to imagine being a living ghost, whom no one really sees, disfigured by war wounds after supposedly fighting for your country, and the sole survivor of an attack on your unit in Vietnam. Enough said!
Mrs. Palmer
May 05, 2011 Mrs. Palmer rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, vietnam-war, 2011
An incredibly disturbing story, but powerful as well. There are some scenes of extreme violence, but the voice is true. An important novel for those interested in the soldier's experience of Vietnam-and after.
Eddie
Apr 02, 2008 Eddie rated it liked it
if you could give 1/2 stars, this would rate a 3.5. it won the nat'l book award, and i really enjoyed it, but it was a little rough around the edges. still. anyone interested in vietnam lit has to read this.
Ana Cunningham
Dec 17, 2010 Ana Cunningham rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fascinating and life-changing novel. Besides the fact that I actually finished this book for class, it was such a gripping and heart-wrenching tale. I cannot wait to read more from Larry Heinemann!
Sycobabel
Mar 25, 2013 Sycobabel rated it really liked it
Harrowing but mesmerizing. Well deserving of the National Book Award. Heinemann has an explosive, raw writing style. Reminded me a bit of Céline's Journey to the End of the Night.
Tom
Jul 04, 2009 Tom rated it liked it
Account of the survivor of a Vietnam massacre, and his life after he returns to the U.S. Stark reading, but it gives a good feel for what these guys had/have to endure.
Ann-marie
Jun 01, 2008 Ann-marie rated it it was amazing
Elegant, brutal, timeless. Should be on more reading lists. If you've read or teach Tim O'Brien's work, assign this as well. Just read it.
 don presnell
when this young man accepts just a little grace
his whole world spins around and everything is just fucked up Again
Kimberley
Aug 14, 2012 Kimberley rated it really liked it


Richly descriptive, an American story through and through, totally unforgettable, so glad to have read this story.
Nic
Mar 04, 2013 Nic rated it it was ok
How this won the National Book Award is beyond me. Foul, vulgar language, boring story and no redeeming value/moral/point.
Johnplavelle
May 23, 2009 Johnplavelle rated it it was amazing
Larry Heinemann described the Vietnam Memorial long before it was designed and he hit it right on the head.
Rebecca
Nov 21, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it
I still remember the haunting feeling I experienced when I realized "who" is the narrator of Paco's Story.
Paul
Sep 26, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it
There is a scene in this book that was so powerful that I startled when I read it.
Melissa
Oct 25, 2009 Melissa rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and the description and the reality of the Vietnam War
Peter
Apr 03, 2015 Peter rated it liked it
A frustrating read. Heinemann has talent, and there's a good story to tell here, but the book is just so unfocused. Going bank and forth from past to present is fine (and essential, given the horrors of Paco's past) and the Vietnam beginning is strong and the ending, as Paco struggles with civilian life, is promising. But the middle is thrown off by three lengthy monologues by secondary characters (all of whom sound like the same person) and the almost obligatory gang-rape and villager-killing s ...more
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Larry Heinemann (born 1944) is an American novelist born and raised in Chicago. His body of work is primarily concerned with the Vietnam War. Mr. Heinemann served a combat tour in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968 with the 25th Infantry Division, and has described himself as the most ordinary of soldiers. Mr. Heinemann's military experience is documented in his most recent work, Black Virgin Mountain (200 ...more
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