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Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet
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Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  717 ratings  ·  45 reviews
When Lewis Puller tripped a booby-trapped howitzer round in Vietnam, triggering a explosion that would cost him his legs, his career as a soldier ended--and the battle to reclaim his life began. "An extraordinary story of survival. And of love."--Mary Jordan, "The Washington Post."
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 19th 2000 by Grove Press (first published June 1st 1991)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  717 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Apr 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet had been on my reading list for several years before I found the courage to read it. I knew it would be a difficult read: a father-son relationship that misfires, war, the dashed hopes of a childhood dream ending with horrific injuries, alcoholism, depression, a failed suicide attempt. CSI may have desensitized me to a degree, but this isn’t fiction, it’s an autobiography.

The son of a retired marine myself, I could relate to parts of Lewis B. Puller,
Jan 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military, history
Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet is the story of Lewis B. Puller, USMC, the son of Lt. General Chesty Puller, USMC, the most decorated Marine in history and the man who came to exemplify what being a Marine means (read his biography in Chesty by Colonel Jon T. Hoffman). To walk in his footsteps, especially as a Marine officer, took a courage that surfaced in this mild-mannered boy when he was grievously injured during the Vietnam War. In 1968, just one year after joining the Marines, ...more
Sallie Dunn
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Writing this review in 2019, I remember being moved by this story and saddened to learn that the author had succumbed to his torments 13 years after writing this moving memoir.
Dec 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I had the pleasure of meeting Lew Puller, Jr. in 1987; an inspiration to all Marines at the time. I was in college when I read his book not long before he took his own life. Tragic in that he was given medicine that re-ignited his medicinal addiction to morphene but his story and family live on. Lew is every bit a hero to me as is his well known Father and General Lew "Chesty" Puller.

Read the story, and take your time with the book. The detail is superb, the life an amazing one.
Carol Storm
May 06, 2016 rated it liked it
A powerful book, but sad and unfinished as the author died by his own hand without ever really recovering from his wounds in Vietnam.

When you read a book like LONE SURVIVOR by Marcus Luttrell or American Sniper by Chris Kyle, or COLDER THAN HELL by Joseph Owen, or even a recent classic like AS TOUGH AS THEY COME by Travis Mills, you really feel like you're learning what it means to be a hero. The authors of these books are people I admired but couldn't ever imagine resembling or even imitating
Apr 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Patriots
I find myself more mystified than ever about the Vietnam War and American Culture of that day. I’ve now read 4 Vietnam veteran biographies and all, but one (that would be John McCain’s), contain a common theme of disillusionment, rejection, and loss. I grieve for the veterans who suffered more from the attitude of anti-war protestors and an ungrateful nation than they did at the hands of brutal enemies of freedom. Another facet of the culture of the day fascinates me and this is the culture of c ...more
Dec 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Engrossing. I read most of it in one night. I enjoy military history, so I was already well acquainted with Puller, Sr., a famous Marine commander. Lew's story is a fantastic American journey, full of courage, despair, and hope (he was horribly maimed on the battlefield in Vietnam). It is an inspirational story, written by a regular man. As such it gives hope to all of us, especially those who may have struggled with some of the same personal demons. Even if you don't particularly care to read a ...more
David Gillespie
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read Fortunate Son because a friend served in Puller's platoon in Vietnam. Although passionate about history, I had nevef read much on the Vietnam War. Puller's book was very engrossing and gave a good sense of "being there." It did, however, seem to drag when he described his unsuccessful run for Congress. Ultimately the book was a tragedy, because three years after publication, Puller committed suicide due to the psychological war that never left him. Definitely recommended
Jul 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I don't characterize this oustanding book as military history but a family story, about a man overcoming his own family history. Lewis Puller Jr. was the son of military legend Chesty Puller. Jr., went to Vietnam, suffered serious injury after stepping on a booby trap. He went on to write this Pulizter Prize winning book after suffering enormous psychological scars. What is haunting and poignant is Lewis Jr., committed suicide a few years after writing this book.
Mark Mortensen
From birth Lewis B. Puller Jr. had some big shoes to fill. He was named after his father, one of the most famous Marines in Corps history, the legendary USMC Lt. General Lewis Burwell Puller, known simply as “Chesty”. Lewis Jr. was gifted at putting his inner thoughts on paper and he penned a heartbreaking autobiography filled with love, devotion, grief and sadness that truly deserved the Pulitzer Prize recognition. Throughout all the hardship he chose the title “Fortunate Son” to tell his story ...more
Mike Stewart
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Son of the revered and near-legendary Marine general, Chesty Puller, Lewis Jr. grew up in his father's shadow, sought to emulate his famous father and was severely wounded in Vietnam in late 1968. He would spend the rest of his life in a wheel chair. While he wanted badly to impress his father and make him proud, one gets the impression that Chesty loved his son unconditionally and did not explicitly demand the level of sacrifice that befell Puller Jr.
Puller tells his story in a straightforward
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was a hard read. As a former Marine everybody knows who Lewis B Puller Sr was, and the physical and mental trauma his son went through due to his service in Vietnam was hard to experience vicariously.

It was a hard read, but a necessary one. Not only did it give me a lot of insight into what it meant to be a Vietnam veteran, but it also gave me insight into my own father's alcoholism. My father was a Korean war vet and went through several similar treatment programs to what Lewis Puller
Ricardo Fernandez
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is about the son of a Marine legend, Chesty Puller, who serves his country in Vietnam and looses both legs and parts of each hand in combat. He describes his struggles to recover physically from his wounds and the grueling daily physical therapy sessions to learn to walk on prosthetic limbs. He is sustained by a loving wife who supports his decisions to return to school, become a lawyer, and try to figure out his life's purpose by running for congress. He struggles with alcohol addicti ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emily Hewitt
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fortunate Son is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’m honestly upset this was never required reading when I was in high school because I think everyone should read this book, especially younger generations like my own who were never personally affected by the Vietnam War. I was also very emotional while reading this book knowing that Lewis Puller committed suicide only a few years after the book was published.
Ryan Gray
Lots of medals and plenty of war, which is to say, very little - he wasn't there for very long before he got both his legs blown off. It's the living with it afterward that takes up most of the book - very pertinent to today.

Written by the son of 'Chesty' Puller, whom was the most decorated marine in U.S. history. The son had no choice in joining up.

One of my favorite books, and I rarely stray from straight literature. I think books about war can be an exception.
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The best book I have ever read concerning his time in Vietnam and after!!! Definitely a must read!!!;
Erik Golbiw
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Tough read in spots. Having heard about Lewis Puller’s book and life via the Jocko William podcast, I knew what was coming. But it’s a powerful book of recovery and strength.
Andrew Hagstrom
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lewis Puller Jr., what a solid, hard-working, intelligent guy. He had to face a mountain of tragedies and difficulties in his life, and yet he was able to push through and hold down a job and make a name for himself. I wonder what heights he might have risen to if he had not been so grievously injured in Vietnam. It is sad that he gave up in the end. His wife was a bulwark in his life; she helped him go on. Her leaving was devastating for him, and ultimately fatal.
This is one of the most difficult books I've ever read, a dichotomy of tragedy over triumph.

I read this in 1992 or 1993 after seeing Mr. Puller on C-SPAN's Booknotes on a Sunday night, as he told achingly of his experiences before, during, and after his service in Vietnam.

By seeing this book, you're most likely already aware of the author's pedigree: Lewis Puller, Jr. was the son of Lewis 'Chesty' Puller, one of the most decorated men in the history of the US Marine Corps, who served with great
Rod Leger
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Living in the shadow of Louis B. "Chesty" Puller could not have been easy. The author had to do just that. Louis "Chesty" Pulley Sr. is a Marine Corps legend. He is no less that the most decorated Marine in history, winning virtually all the highest military honors, including the Medal of Honor, 'Chesty' was a man's man and a Marine's Marine. His son attempted to follow in his shoes. This book is his story.

Louis B. Puller Jr. entered his father's beloved Marine Corps in 1968. After officer train
Writer's Relief
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
When a young man tries to live up to his father’s reputation, the results are catastrophic. This Vietnam Era autobiography by Lewis Puller, son of Chesty Puller, the most highly decorated Marine in the history of the Marine Corps, is a heartbreaking look into the son’s vain attempts to continue his father’s legacy. You move through his basic training with him, wishing he would just quit. Showing his tenacity, he graduates and is assigned field duty in Vietnam. Shortly after being deployed, he is ...more
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Adults interested in the history of the Marine Corps and the Vietnam War
This is the life story of the son of the U.S. Marine Corps' greatest hero, "Chesty" Puller. His son, named after him, also became a Marine and went to Vietnam as a lieutenant leading an infantry platoon. There he was terribly wounded and maimed by what would today be called an IED, losing both legs and one arm. This book is mainly the story of his struggle after that; he frankly recounts his struggles with rage, depression, and alcoholism, and relationship problems. As a sidelight, the books sho ...more
Nov 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, war
A fascinating, moving, very well written memoir. The son of the only Marine to win five Navy Crosses, Puller Jr. went to Vietnam, a newlywed, as a matter of course, lost his legs and some of his hands, became a lawyer, ran for Congress, overcame alcoholism and finally made peace with his country for making his sacrifice a wasted effort. At least that’s how his book ends; I learned later that he killed himself a few years after the publication of this Pulitzer-Prize winning effort. The book is re ...more
May 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, military
An excellent book for anyone to read who is feeling sorry for themselves for whatever reason. This poor man and his family endured so much that it was quite literally incomprehensible. The internal and external wounds of war hit Lewis Puller with full force and this book is a good source to see how much the wounds of loved one effect those around them and how difficult the unsung struggles of the families of the wounded can be. This book is a true eye opener for multiple reasons and a true story ...more
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Extremely tragic story of Marine Corps legend Chesty Puller's son. Puller Jr. commissioned as an officer, went to Vietnam and was horribly wounded; losing his legs, part of his torso and several fingers. His autobiography deals with his struggle to overcome the devastation of his wounds, his alcoholism and his fight to make a memorial for Vietnam Veterans a reality. Intense and engrossing. A powerful account of American society's relationship to its Vietnam Veterans and the cost of war.
Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
A harrowing account, and ultimately a personal tragedy. Lewis fought his catastrophic injuries as best he could, but in 1994, after enduring so much, and now the loss of his his faithful and long suffering wife and two children to divorce - he finally gave up and killed himself. This is not in the book, but it can be subsumed as a measure of the price of Lt. Puller's Vietnam service.
Johnpaul Lecedre
May 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A great narrative of what it was like to return to an ungrateful nation after the Vietnam War from a vet who had to deal with devastating physical and emotional injuries. So many parallels for those serving in our current wars, but it also made me appreciate how far our country has come since then. Especially poignant given the post-script in the author's life.
Jerry Mrizek
I wanted to like this book, I did like this book but then the author committed suicide approximately one week after I finished it. I realize I can't understand what he went through, but an inspiring story about overcoming long odds seems wrong when the author eventually quits. Just left a sour taste in my mouth.
Nov 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I read this book for a college class and was really affected by it at the time. It's an amazing story of a regular guy dealing with the extreme trauma and readjustment to the US after fighting (and nearly dying) in the Vietnam War.
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Lewis Burwell Puller Jr. was the son of General Lewis "Chesty" Puller, the most decorated Marine in the history of the Marine Corps. He followed in his father's footsteps and became a Marine officer. Upon graduation from the College of William and Mary in 1967, Puller was shipped to Vietnam, where he was badly wounded by a landmine on October 11, 1968, losing both legs and most use of his hands in ...more