Danielle Trussoni, author of Falling through the Earth, is as much a casualty of the Viet Nam war as was her father, Dan, who returned from that war as damaged goods, a man unable to show his wife and children that he loved them. Trussoni's benign neglect of his children forced them to grow up tough and able to solve their own problems because he was a firm follower of the old adage that "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Sadly, their situation shows clearly how the crippling aftereffects of combat can be so easily passed on from one generation to the next, making one wonder where the cycle finally ends.
Dan Trussoni was a volunteer tunnel rat in Viet Nam, one of those incredibly brave men who went alone into the underground tunnel system that allowed Viet Cong soldiers to disappear at will and that provided them with a safe haven to recover from wounds and to hide food and weapons until they were needed. These young American soldiers, armed with little more than a pistol and a flashlight, had to crawl through booby traps and utter darkness never knowing what awaited them around the next corner as they tried to clean out the systems they discovered. It is little wonder that they came back with mental scars that never really heal.
Danielle became aware at an early age of how her father's Viet Nam experience impacted his life. She found the pictures of dead bodies and the human skull that he brought home. She also found that she was largely going to have to raise herself after her parents split up and she decided to live with her father. Dan Trussoni's idea of a little quality time with his daughter was to bring her to his favorite neighborhood bar in which she spent so much time that she was considered to be one of the regulars.
Life for the Trussoni kids was full of surprises, including the appearance of an illegitimate half-sister and a full sister who had been placed for adoption by their parents who felt too young and overwhelmed to keep her when she was born. Danielle was her father's daughter in every way, fearless, tough, brash and willing to take whatever life threw her way. That personality led her to Viet Nam, alone, where she saw for herself some of the same sights and experienced a little of the fear that her father felt while he was there, even forcing herself to "tour" one of the famous tunnel systems with a guide.
Falling through the Earth, with chapters that alternate between views of growing up in the Trussoni family, Dan's Viet Nam war, and Danielle's own trip there, is a fascinating book, one that makes me wish that we would make absolutely certain that our wars are really necessary before we send our young men into them.
Rated at 3.0