February 17, 2018

Buffalo Boy and Geronimo

By LJ Staff

Editor’s Pick for November 29, 2005

Buffalo Boy and Geronimo Janko, James. Buffalo Boy and Geronimo. Curbstone, dist. by Consortium. Jan. 2006. c.264p. ISBN 1-931896-19-4. pap. $15. F

Set in Vietnam during the war, this simple tale achieves depth through its language and naturalistic detail. A young Vietnamese boy named Mong tends his buffalo, works in rice paddies, and dreams of consummating his love for a local girl. American soldiers come and go, and bombings are a daily reality to be endured. One American soldier, a Mexican American medic called Conchola, passes through Mong’s village with his platoon. When his close friend is killed by a trip wire bomb, Conchola begins a gradual descent into a primordial state of consciousness. He deserts his platoon and is eventually captured by Mong and his people, who are migrating to a safer area. They rope the captive Conchola to a tree alongside a dying woman, hoping that both will be sighted by a patrol helicopter and the woman’s life will be saved. The novel presents an engaging and tragic human drama and delves deeply into the impact of the war on animals and the biosphere. Janko, himself a former medic in the Vietnam War, convincingly captures both the cynical dialog of American soldiers and the timeless rhythms of Vietnamese peasant life. This book deserves to enter the canon of masterly, penetrating works about this still controversial era. Recommended for most collections. – Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta