Shopping Cart Soldiers: A NovelPaperback
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- Publisher: SCRIBNER
- Format: Paperback | 256 pages
- Dimensions: 128mm x 198mm x 18mm | 299g
- Publication date: 20 January 1999
- Publication City/Country: New York, NY
- ISBN 10: 0684856050
- ISBN 13: 9780684856056
- Illustrations note: black & white illustrations
"Shopping Cart Soldiers" is a modern day Odyssean tale of the atrocities of war and its even more appalling aftermath. Set against the brutal realities of the conflict in Vietnam, John Mulligan tells the story of Finn MacDonald, an eighteen-year-old boy who is drafted soon after he emigrates with his family from Scotland. Upon returning from Vietnam, Finn is plagued by the terrible memories of all he has seen and is pushed into a haze of self-destructive behavior that tests his will to survive. "Shopping Cart Soldiers" chronicles Finn's painful and remarkable journey -- and his triumphant path to spiritual renewal and recovery.
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John Mulligan was born in Kirkintilloch, Scotland, in 1950, into a home with ten children. After his family emigrated to the U.S., Mulligan enlisted in the Air Force. Within weeks of turning 18 and while still a British citizen, he was on his way to combat in Vietnam. On his return to San Francisco after his tour of duty, he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was homeless for more than ten years. During his recovery from alcoholism, Mulligan attended a veteran's workshop run by the celebrated author Maxine Hong Kingston, who recognized his extraordinary talent and helped him edit the manuscript of "Shopping Cart Soldiers."
Gerald Nicosia "The Washington Post Book World" If I had to pick three novels that best embody the American experience in the Vietnam War, they would be Tim O'Brien's "Going After Cacciato, " Larry Heinemann's "Paco's story, " and John Mulligan's "Shopping Cart Soldiers."
Autobiographical detail provides potent fuel for this uncommon saga of a Vietnam vet's long, agonizing reorganization of the fragments of his war-torn psyche - a moving first novel from San Francisco - based Mulligan. The trials of Finn are only beginning when his tour in Vietnam ends and he's dumped back in the States to fend for himself. His family having emigrated from Scotland just in time for him to be drafted, Finn went to war with even less reason for being there than his fellow grunts - and quickly lost his grip after witnessing the senseless slaughter of a magnificent white bull, then having to fulfill a blood pact with his closest friend, who was wounded in an ambush. Soulless, Finn comes home to wife and child, but his alcoholism drives them away, and he spends 12 years homeless, pushing a shopping cart and sleeping in a park along with other vets. His condition deteriorates almost to the point of no return, but his soul/anima (which he calls "Madman") has stuck close in hopes of making him whole again; in a series of magical transformations set in motion by his strong sense of Celtic identity - and aided by the unlikely figure of Robert Louis Stevenson - Finn slowly accepts Madman, along with the more unsavory part of himself he calls "Redeyes." His friends who died in Vietnam, and whose bloody ghosts have long tormented him, are finally laid to rest along with his addiction, allowing him to return to Scotland to prove himself worthy of his heritage. The heroic recovery here is as much personal triumph as reminder of a national shame. Mulligan's fine telling of the story ought to help open a door of hope for others who may have been destroyed like Finn and are still left behind. (Kirkus Reviews)